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Bionic eye trial reveals substantial vision improvements over two and a half years

Results of the first clinical trial of Australia’s ‘second generation’ bionic eye have demonstrated ‘substantial improvement’ in four participants’ functional vision, daily activities and quality of life over a period of more than two and a half years.

Detailed outcomes from the trial, led by the Centre for Eye Research Australia, Bionics Institute, University of Melbourne and Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, were published in May in Ophthalmology Science.

The findings add to interim results which showed that the second-generation bionic eye  developed by Australian company Bionic Vision Technologies provided rapid improvements for four patients with blindness caused by the genetic eye condition retinitis pigmentosa.

 

Hear from Professor James Fallon and a bionic eye recipient

This research featured on Ch9 News Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth.

Hear from Professor James Fallon, Associate Professor Penny Allen from CERA and a patient talking about the results of the clinical trial and next steps, plus the impact of vision enabling technology.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited retinal disease which affects about two million people worldwide and is one of the leading causes of vision loss in working-age people.

The bionic eye comprises an electrode array, designed by the Bionics Institute and the Centre for Eye Research Australia, that is surgically implanted behind the eye. The electrode receives signals from a video camera mounted on glasses, which stimulate the patient’s retina.

“The camera converts images into electrical pulses delivered by the electrode array that activate retinal cells and create flashes of light called phosphenes to help patients detect edges, shapes and movement,” said Professor James Fallon, Head of Research at the Bionics Institute.

The new study tracked the patients from the time they received the implant surgery in 2018 to 2021.

Its findings demonstrate the device is stable and durable over the longer term– staying in place behind the retina without complication and still having 97 per cent of electrodes functioning 2.7 years after first implant.

Principal Investigator and vitreo-retinal surgeon Associate Professor Penny Allen said patients showed significant improvement in their navigation, mobility and ability to detect objects – in clinical tests, at home and in the community.

“The bionic eye enabled blind patients to locate doorways, avoid obstacles and find items on table-tops,’’ she said. “They reported greater confidence in navigation, were more likely to explore new environments and had reduced need for assistance when travelling to the local shops.’’

Associate Professor Allen said participants reported that the bionic eye supplemented long cane and guide dog use, provided safe navigation around people and obstacles, and allowed them to detect waypoints such as trees and lamp posts along navigational routes.

“Patients were also able to locate their spouse in a café and detect people moving at a train station – things they could not do without using their bionic eye.’’

Bionic Vision Technologies’ team is  continuing to refine the vision processing capabilities, usability, as well as the wearables of the bionic eye system.

Dr Ash Attia, CEO of Bionic Vision Technologies said “ We are encouraged  by  the excellent results of the generation 2 Bionic eye trial. We are looking forward to finalize the development of the Generation 3 bionic eye and enter the worldwide pivotal trial and ultimately gain regulatory approval”.  “Regulatory  approval will allow us to make this important technology available to RP patients which will positively impact their lives” Dr Attia said.

 

Patient information

The bionic eye team is not currently recruiting but there are opportunities to take part in other inherited retinal disease studies. To learn more, visit: https://ceruleaclinicaltrials.org.au/take-part-in-research/

“The camera converts images into electrical pulses delivered by the electrode array that activate retinal cells and create flashes of light called phosphenes to help patients detect edges, shapes and movement.” Professor James Fallon

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Latest News

Engineering a solution for the torment of tinnitus

Building medical device prototypes is a way of life for Senior Research Engineer, Owen Burns. Over the past 13 years, his expertise in bio-mechanical engineering has been integral to the design of electrodes to treat Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, blindness, and now tinnitus.

Owen and his team in the Bionics Institute Experimental Device Engineering Hub are working closely with lead researcher Dr Mehrnaz Shoushtarian to develop a new prototype to test tinnitus using a brain imaging technology that monitors oxygen levels in the brain called functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

Tinnitus, hearing sounds not present externally like hissing or buzzing, affects 15% of the population and can severely impact quality of life. Currently there are no reliable treatments for tinnitus, and also no objective test to determine if potential treatments are working.

Dr Shoushtarian says: “We have developed an objective test of tinnitus using fNIRS and machine learning to detect tinnitus-related changes in the brain, which is an important step in developing reliable treatments”.

Using a general-purpose fNIRS system, Dr Shoushtarian and her research team have established a technique that detects tinnitus with 87% accuracy. However, to meet clinical usability requirements, a specialised prototype is under development.

Supported by a generous donation from Hearts and Minds Investments as nominated by Cooper Investors, the engineering team will produce five prototypes in 2024 for use in a multi-site clinical trial.

Hearts and Minds is an Australian listed investment company that has donated $48.9M to leading medical research organisations since its inception with support from its suite of fund managers, including Cooper Investors, who provide their highest conviction investment ideas pro bono.

Peter Cooper founded Cooper Investors in 2001 and combines his role of Chief Investment Officer with advocating for more and better philanthropy in Australia.

He says that tinnitus is a very challenging condition, and when he heard about the research being conducted at the Bionics Institute, he was keen to give his support.

“Medical research provides an excellent return on investment, and I look forward to seeing the progress of this research program towards new treatments for tinnitus” Peter Cooper

To find out more about this tinnitus research and how you can participate in the clinical trial here.

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Tomorrow’s medical breakthroughs could start with you today.

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We’re researching tests and treatments to improve the lives of people like Sara. All gifts over $2 are tax deductible.

Sara’s story

Living with Crohn’s disease is a constant struggle for Sara.

“Some days the pain is so bad I can’t even get out of bed,” she says. “I can’t even have a shower without being doubled over in agony.”

Sara’s condition causes her body to attack its own tissues and the debilitating symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. At its worst, the condition can be life-threatening.

There is currently no cure and while drug therapies can provide some temporary relief, most living with the condition end up needing invasive surgery.

At the Bionics Institute a new medical device is being developed with the potential to prevent the debilitating symptoms and bring relief to people like Sara.

Help fund pioneering research

There is an urgent need to find better ways to provide much needed relief from the effects of Crohn’s disease and other debilitating conditions.

Researchers at the Bionics Institute are working on cutting-edge devices and treatments for a range of conditions including Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, hearing loss, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic pain.

Will you help turn cutting edge research into the lifechanging treatments and therapies of the future?

Your donation can help speed up research from the lab to those needing treatment, as is the case with our electrical stimulation device to treat Crohn’s disease being implanted in a patient at the Austin Hospital.

Help us fast-track treatments to fight chronic conditions

The use of electricity to alter the activity of nerves has given rise to a broad range of promising new treatments for autoimmune diseases and chronic conditions that are poorly controlled by drugs.

You can help make a positive change in the lives of people with painful and debilitating conditions.

“The Bionics Institute’s research into innovative new treatments give people like me hope of a better future.” – Sara

About the research

Our world-class scientists, engineers and clinicians work together to create and develop medical devices and transform the lives of people around the world. Our research focuses on developing new therapies and diagnostic tools in six main areas.

Autoimmune & chronic conditions

Brain research

Bionic limb research

Chronic pain research

Hearing & vision research

Incubator research

The success of our research is marked by the creation of spin-off companies that ensure our research is translated into clinical outcomes. Investment in these companies will fund future research at the Bionics Institute.

Want to support the future of research like this?
Early-stage research for life-changing devices & treatments like this is made possible by donations from our supporters.

Your support today could turn the seed of an idea into a new treatment in the future.

Find out how you can support research innovation here.

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Latest News

Passe & Williams Foundation Fellowship winners 2024

The Passe & Williams Foundation have continued their longstanding support of Bionics Institute hearing researchers with the two prestigious Fellowships.

The highly competitive Fellowships went to Dr Anu Sabu who was awarded the Early Career Researcher Fellowship and Demi Gao who was awarded the Mid-Career Research Fellowship.

Dr Anu Sabu
Anu is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the bionic auditory neuroscience group at the Bionics Institute and works with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers in the fields of neuroscience, biomedical engineering, and photonics.

Anu shares:
I am sincerely honoured to have been selected as a recipient of the Junior Fellowship award by the Passe and Williams Foundation. Thanks to their generosity, it has been possible for me to develop as a future research leader in auditory neuroscience and continue developing innovative solutions for common hearing issues.
The research will explore the range of physiological changes that enhance the speech comprehension and sound quality, especially in noisy environments. An understanding of how information is processed in the auditory brain of these patients will enable clinicians to make informed decisions on optimising the combined stimulation provided by the cochlear implants and hearing aids for people living with partial deafness.

The results from the research will shed light on the benefits of using a combination of cochlear implants and hearing aids for people with partial hearing loss. Dr Anu Sabu

Demi is a Senior Research Scientist at the Bionics Institute and Honorary Research Fellow in the Medical Bionics Department, University of Melbourne. 

Demi shares:
This is a fantastic opportunity to accelerates intervention in infants and children with hearing and language disorders using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy, an emerging light-based brain imaging technology.
The developed technique will substantially reduce the uncertainties involved during clinical estimation of cochlear implant programs in younger infants. The completion of this project will lead to clinical change towards objective identification of implant parameters. This project will lead to clinical change towards improved infant implant programming, leading to prelingually deafened children to have a similar learning rate for speech and language compared to their normal hearing peers.

 

I’m thrilled to have received this prestigious fellowship to establish and expand my research program. Dr Demi Gao

Congratulations Demi and Anu on this amazing achievement which allows further investigation into how a combination of cochlear implants and hearing aids might give a more unified perception of sound for improved speech understanding.

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Latest News

Long-time ambassador Cynthia McLarty holds a Garden Party Fundraiser

Cynthia McLarty recently hosted a garden party fundraiser and raised an incredible $10K to help speed us groundbreaking Bionics Institute reaseach.

The fun-filled day included a raffle, BBQ, cream teas, wine tastings and much more. With the support of friends, family and local businesses the day was a huge success.

Cynthia is a long-time ambassador of the Bionics Institute. Her son Sam was born profoundly deaf and, at 9 months old, became one of the youngest children in Victoria to receive a cochlear implant.

“What an incredible day it was, made possible by all the people that came and supported the event and the donors that were so generous.
I have been forever grateful to the Bionics institute from that miracle day, 24 years ago, when my son Sam heard sound for the first time. A moment I will never forget.” – Cynthia

We are so grateful for the time and effort our supporters so generously give to help us progress our research and give hope to those living with debilitating medical conditions. Whether a garden party, coffee morning, raffle or sponsored fitness event, there are lots of fun ways you can get involved to help raise funds towards our life-changing research!

Hosting the Garden party was a small way of giving back to an organisation that has changed so many lives around the world, and will continue to do so. Cynthia McLarty

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Latest News

Dr Mehrnaz Shoushtarian discusses her tinnitus research on radio

Dr Mehrnaz Shoushtarian, Senior Research and Development Engineer, was invited to speak on Einstein A Go-Go radio show on 3RRR to discuss her work into developing an objective measure of tinnitus.

The show aims to explore the wonders of science and its impact on the world, dissecting science issues in a way that can be understood by the public.

The episode discussion revolved around Mehrnaz’s research into developing an objective measure of tinnitus and the complexities and challenges of the condition.

Segment host Dr Shane, who has tinnitus, was eager to chat with Mehrnaz about his personal experience of the impact tinnitus can have on daily life. 

The general understanding is that it usually starts with some sort of damage to the ear. But then it becomes more of a brain problem. It’s difficult to know exactly how it starts. Dr Mehrnaz Soushtarian

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