Coming by 2013: A bionic eye for the blind?

In a pioneering research, scientists claim to be developing bionic eyes for the blind, which they say will be ready for human trials by 2013.

An international team, led by Monash University, says the bionic eye implant will suit people who have lost their sight through traumatic injury or tumours, as well as for those with diseases affecting eyes like glaucoma and retinal disorders.

"We have made significant progress since beginning last year and are confident we will have a device that could treat the majority of patients who are clinically blind," said team leader Prof Arthur Lowery.

He added: "Our device will directly stimulate the brain's vision centre using a miniaturised implant. The implant is fed with signals from a camera that have been processed to extract the most useful information, depending on what the user needs.

"The implant has many tiles, each with 45 electrodes, designed to give over 650 pixels in all. Due to the powerful and adaptable signal processing, we believe this number of electrodes can provide invaluable situational awareness to the user. The device can also be tuned for use in different environments, both indoors and outdoors."

According to the scientists, the implant does not require a functioning eyeball or optic nerve or visual pathways from the eye to the brain, a varsity release said.

Prof Jeffrey Rosenfeld, chief surgeon on the project from The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, said: "Our implant features an array of electrodes inserted into the surface layers of the brain at the back of head where the V1 vision region resides.

"The V1 region has a relatively large surface area compared with the retina, so can potentially provide better resolution than other approaches."

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