First Bionic Eye Proves a Success
On August 31st, 2012, the first bionic eye was implanted into Dianne Ashworth’s eyeball at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Australia and gave her a small glimpse of vision. Ashworth’s vision loss is due to a disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is an inherited condition that causes great vision loss.
Once in the room getting ready for her implant to be turned on, scientists held their breaths in the next room waiting to see if their hard work had paid off. “I didn’t know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash… it was amazing” said Ashworth. Although the bionic eye is still being improved and developed, the outcome of Ashworth’s vision has given scientists hope. “These results have fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision,” said Professor Emeritus David Penington AC, chairman of Bionic Vision Australia. Ashworth’s implant is called the “pre-bionic eye” because additional work has to be made to create an optimal eye.
Great amount of work still has to be done to “build” images for Ashworth and help her develop better vision. Ashworth’s bionic eye is the first prototype of its kind and consists of a retinal implant with 24 electrodes. A wire extends from the back of the eye to a connector behind the ear. Then, an external system is connected to the unit in the laboratory, which allows researchers to stimulate the implant in order to study the flashes of light. This allows Ashworth to be able to see the images. Another prototype is in development in hopes to make vision even greater; some changes include an external camera.
Along with giving her vision, the implant is of interest to her. Ashworth herself is an avid technology fan, so her contribution to the bionic eye research program was special to her.