BIONIC EYE repost from deaf-blind mailing list

From: 503 (robertj@tekgen.BV.TEK.COM)
Date: Wed Aug 23 1995 - 07:53:13 PDT


     I just read this item from the deaf-blind list. This sounds like some
technology we might want more details on.

        Robert Jaquiss

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Date: Wed, 23 Aug 1995 17:17:59 +1000
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Subject: Bionic Eye
To: Multiple recipients of list DEAFBLND <>


When walking through these gardens on a beautiful day like
today, There's a range of information being fed to my senses -
the sun's warmth on my back, the sounds of birds in trees, the
smells of the flowers. But perhaps the most precious sensory
information of all comes through my eyes - the glorious mix of
colours, shapes and patterns. But without sight, the world is
suddenly a very different place.

The contact lens is moving well. There's a little bit of a scar.
Technology is only gradually making that world easier to
navigate. People who are visually impaired have a relatively
small choice of systems to enchance their quality of life. (high-
pitched noise) So far, these advances are mostly based on the
use of other senses to replace the eyes' function. Inventions like
braille have used touch with great success. Other techologies
work with hearing. Computer: two. switching... Three. This
backpack uses the satellite global positioning system to give
directions across a university campus Switching...

Now medical scientists are working on a solution straight from
science fiction - placing a computer chip in the eye to restore
vision. Our eyes work like cameras. The lens focuses images
onto the retina, a light-sensitive tissue spread like a film on the
back of the eye. This stimulates specialised nerve cells called
retinal ganglions. They send the information to the optic nerve
which connects the eyes to the brain, where the picture is
developed. Ten per cent of seriously visually impaired people
suffer from a disease called retinal pigmentosis. It destroys the
photoreceptors on the retina's surface.

(Dr Eugene De Juan, Eye Surgeon) Our approach is to stimulate
the retina rather than the brain. Dr Eugene De Juan, a surgeon at
the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, is devising an
amazing replacement film for the retina. (Dr) That has some
advantage... (reporter) A light-sensitive chip which would bring
light out of darkness. (Dr) ...stimulate the brain. And what if we
could bypass these photoreceptors and hook in to the ganglion
cells directly, could we restore vision in this group of patients?

In experimental surgery, he used a slender electrical probe to
stimulate the ganglion cells. While retinal pigmentosis has left
this patient completely blind, he reported some exciting results.
(patient) He was very elated that I could see the signal and
describe the shapes of the objects that was placed from the
signal, and the colour and the locations. A prototype eye chip
has already been made with an array of four phototransistors.
This array senses light as it reaches the back of the eye and
transforms it into electrical impulses which activate micro-
stimulators near the ganglion cells.

CHEERING The patient would perceive these messages like dots
on an electronic scoreboard. With a four sensor array, you would
have what's called robotic vision - the ability to discern motion
up, down, left, right or diagonal.

Medical engineers say there's plenty of room in the eye for a
chip with 1,024 sensors - enough for reading and moving around
without bumping into things. The challenge now is to make that
chip entirely compatible with one of the body's most sensitive
parts. Size, shape and power source are all stumbling blocks
between eye chip dreams and reality. That reality is still over 10
years off, but it's in sight.

(Dr) It's an equation. And the equation is time and money. Um...
the more money you have, the less time it takes.

Once the technology is fully developed, it may well offer much
more than normal sight. For instance, an eye chip sensitive to
infra-red would give a person the ability to see in the dark. Or an
ultraviolet chip would give the user another perspective on the
world altogether. It's an exciting vision of the future. The eye
chip is taking us one step closer to what will be an extraordinary
day in medical history - the day when a visually impaired person
is given the gift of sight.

Baltimore, USA 1994.

Dear people with RP and Usher Syndrome,

The bionic eye is a good idea for people with Retinitis
Pigmentosa. What about people with Usher Syndrome? What
about the rest of the body to cure for people with Usher
Syndrome? e.g. Deaf, balance problem, nerve system etc.

People with RP or Usher Syndrome suffered from genetic
disorders and they need to be cured? Bionic eye may worn out
after five or ten years or the chip may found faulty?

Yours faithfully

Peter M Tarrant.
Victoria, Australia.

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