Ten patients totally blind because of a genetic disease, retinitis pigmentosa, agreed to be implanted a bionic eye, an innovative technology that restores partial sight, writes “The Guardian”. If the test is successful, the device, called the Argus II, could be widely used, changing thus people’s lives.
The procedure involves installing a camera in a pair of glasses, connected to a minicomputer which transmits signals directly to the nerves that control. A prosthesis is implanted on the retina which consists of an antenna, an electronic box and a set of electrodes.
How does this work
For starters, the patient wearing glasses fitted with cameras that record what’s happening. The images are sent “computer” portal, where they are converted into instructions. They go wireless, to an antenna located in the implant. The signal is picked up by electrodes that stimulate cells all remaining functional in the retina, and they send it to the brain via the optic nerve, reproducing thus the mechanism of vision. The system allows the brain to decode flashes of light, and those people will learn to see movement.
Ten patients who are free of charge this device whose costs are supp-ity of the British National Health Service, saw nothing more than a vague difference between daylight and darkness. They will be operated and then monitored for one year to two hospitals ophthalmology in London: Manchester Royal and Moorfields.
One patient is Keith Hayman, 68, from Lancashire, who has five grandchildren. He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he was 20 years old. The disease evolves over time; retinal cells begin to gradually reduce activity and slowly die. Hayman, who in his youth was a butcher, was forced to give up the job in 1981, when he became totally blind.
“I’ve spent half my life in the dark and now know when grandchildren running towards me. Before I was going to talk to someone, and the person to leave without me realize I continue the discussion. Now no longer happening because noticing if moved. Can you find little things, but for me makes.
So far, scientists have not been able to obtain partial vision playback through gene therapy or stem cells, though there are hopes that in the future it will reach such a result. So far, however, it is the only treatment bionic eye that can restore some degree of sight to those who are totally blind.
The device does not provide a clear picture and patients to interpret visual signals received using the equipment. Experts say that users will be able to distinguish shapes of light and shadow, and how much more will use bionic eye, the will be able to “see” better. They will be able to identify, in form, objects and people and where they are, and some can even distinguish large letters.
Professor Paulo Stanga, who performed at the hospital in Manchester in 2015, the first implant in the world of a bionic eye on a patient diagnosed with macular degeneration related to age, says that “patients will not be able to distinguish faces of others, but will whether someone is in front of them and in what direction the person moves. And this is a great benefit for those who do not see at all, because their biggest problem is the permanent sense of isolation. Argus II see that there are people around and not feel like talking to themselves “, explains Professor Argentine.
His patient, Ray Flynn, aged 80, suffering from age-related macular degeneration, a condition that causes total loss of central vision. He currently uses a retinal implant and associated technology and can track human silhouettes and shapes of objects. Ray Flynn said he was pleased with this implant and hopes that, over time, will improve to enough to help in his daily activities such as gardening and shopping trips.
Bionic eye could be even more effective and cheaper alternative than guide dogs for the blind, whose training has exorbitant costs because it takes at least three years and shall be made only in special training schools. Argus II device tested on ten British patients with surgery and healthcare for the year supervisory costs 130,000 euros.
In the world there are about 40 million blind people and 246 million visually impaired to varying degrees. A future use of the bionic eye widespread and could certainly help many of them.