The next generation bionic eye
Based on our successful clinical trial of a bionic eye prototype, the Bionics Institute and collaborators* were awarded NHMRC funding, with support from Bionic Vision Technologies Ltd, to undertake a clinical trial with an advanced ‘take home’ wide-view bionic eye.
We have designed and constructed an upgraded version of the prototype device. As with the original device, the next generation electrode array is implanted between the two back layers of the eye (suprachoroidal location). This novel approach requires relatively easy surgery compared to other possible locations for electrodes within the eye and proved to be safe, stable, and reliable. Importantly, it was shown to be effective in eliciting visual perceptions in the recipients, allowing them to identify shapes, perceive movement, and undertake unassisted navigation tasks.
The present clinical trial is testing the safety and effectiveness of the next generation wide-view bionic eye. Whereas the prototype device used an external plug to connect the electrodes to lab equipment, the next generation device is fully implantable and portable. This allows the continued testing of the recipients’ perceptions within our purpose-built laboratory and also enables the recipients to use the device in everyday life.
This is a significant step forward in the development of an Australian bionic eye since it will allow the recipients to receive maximum benefit from using the device and the researchers will be able to obtain far more information about the device’s capabilities.
*The chief investigators in the NHMRC project grant are: Dr Penelope Allen (Centre for Eye Research Australia, CERA); A/Prof Chris Williams (Bionics Institute); Dr Lauren Ayton (CERA); Dr Chi Luu (CERA); A/Prof Nicholas Barnes (ANU); and Dr Matthew Petoe (Bionics Institute).
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