The Bionics Institute embarked on developing a bionic eye with the Centre for Eye Research (CERA) in 2007. As a member of the nationwide Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) consortium established in 2010, we used our experience in safety and biocompatibility studies to develop a safe and effective electrode array to stimulate the retina.
A clinical trial using our prototype device was successfully completed in 2014 in three patients with retinitis pigmentosa, the most common cause of inherited blindness. We now prepare for the clinical trial of the next generation device.
This research was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) through its Special Research Initiative (SRI) in Bionic Vision Science and Technology grant to Bionic Vision Australia (BVA)(2010-2015).
In retinitis pigmentosa, the light-sensitive cells of the retina (photoreceptors) degenerate but the retinal neurons that transmit information to the brain remain.
The bionic eye electrically stimulates these surviving retinal cells to provide a sense of vision for people with degenerative eye diseases. The electrode array implanted in the retina delivers electrical stimuli in the form of current pulses that activate nearby cells. This activity is transmitted to the visual areas of the brain (visual cortex) and elicits a perception of a localised flash of light (termed a phosphene).