- by Dr. Leslie Ravi Kumar
- 0 Shares
- Feb 09 2017
What is Bionic Eyes?
To benefit from this technology, patients need to have a functional visual pathway from the retina to the brain along the optic nerve, as well as some intact retinal cells. As such, the two medical conditions that this technology aims to address are retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.
How Retinal Implants Restore Sight
The Argus II is a two-part system: It includes a small camera that is mounted on a pair of eyeglasses and a tiny array of electrodes that is implanted in the back of the eye, on the retina.
Whatever the camera sees is converted into signals that are transmitted wirelessly to the retinal implant. In response, the chip's electrodes stimulate the retinal cells, causing them to send the incoming information to the optic nerve so it can be processed by the brain.
Limitations of Bionic Eyes
Although the Argus II system enables people to discern light, movement and shapes, it does not yet restore sight to the extent some might hope. This limitation is largely due to the fact that the current implant has only 60 electrodes. To see naturally, you'd need about a million.
However, some Argus II users can function well enough to read large-print books and cross the street on their own. And the company plans to add more electrodes in future models.
Another limitation of the current Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System is that it doesn't enable users to perceive colors. And it's expensive — costs associated with the device and procedure add up to nearly $150,000 and may or may not be covered by medical insurance.
The Future of Bionic Eyes
Future iterations of the Argus II system will likely feature advanced implants with higher numbers of electrodes that are capable of producing sharper, more functional vision for people who are blind from retinitis pigmentosa and other retinal diseases, including macular degeneration. It's possible future implants may also be able to produce some degree of color vision.
In addition to Second Sight's bionic eye, researchers elsewhere are testing devices with even more electrodes, as well as devices that bypass the retina and stimulate the brain directly
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