“All of a sudden I could see a little flash of light. It was amazing.”
In a major development, Bionic Vision Australia researchers have successfully performed the first implantation of an early prototype bionic eye with 24 electrodes.
Professor Rob Shepherd, Director of the Bionics Institute, led the team in designing, building and testing this early prototype to ensure its safety and efficacy for human implantation. Cochlear Ltd technology supported aspects of the project.
“We are working with Ms Ashworth to determine exactly what she sees each time the retina is stimulated using a purpose built laboratory at the Bionics Institute. The team is looking for consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information.
Having this unique information will allow us to maximise our technology as it evolves through 2013 and 2014,” Professor Shepherd said.
Professor Emeritus David Penington AC, Chairman of Bionic Vision Australia said: “These results have fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision. Much still needs to be done in using the current implant to ‘build’ images for Ms Ashworth. The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices.”
Professor Anthony Burkitt, Director of Bionic Vision Australia said:
“This outcome is a strong example of what a multi-disciplinary research team can achieve. Funding from the Australian Government was critical in reaching this important milestone. The Bionics Institute and the surgeons at the Centre for Eye Research Australia played a critical role in reaching this point.”
Dr Penny Allen, a specialist surgeon at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, led a surgical team to implant the prototype at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.
“This is a world first – we implanted a device in this position behind the retina, demonstrating the viability of our approach. Every stage of the procedure was planned and tested, so I felt very confident going into theatre,” Dr Allen said.