Blind World


Retinitis Pigmentosa.
Setting Sights on Bionics.





January 18, 2005.
PC Magazine.




As the scientific community is just beginning to explore integrating bionic devices into humans, companies at the forefront have released some remarkable test results. With FDA approval, Optobionics has completed a series of clinical trials involving implanting a 2-milimeter silicon chip inside the eye in patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative eye disease with no cure. Test results have shown dramatic visual restoration.


Dr. Alan Chow, chief operating officer of Optobionics, says that RP patients lose their sight gradually and progress to the point where they see only shadows or no light at all. The chip contains 5,000 microphotodiodes, each with an electrode. When light enters the eye, the chip produces tiny electric charges that "concentrate on the electrodes, which stimulate the retina cells," says Dr. Chow. "The intention was to produce a pixelated image similar to a computer display to replace the function of the degenerated photo receptors." Not only have test patients begun to see light again, but retinas are functioning again. Their perception of color, resolution, and contrast are returning.


Patients confirm that it is like "turning back the clock 10 to 20 years," says Dr. Chow. He hopes his microchip will also be able to treat other conditions causing loss of vision such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Today, AMD and RP affect around 30 million people worldwide.


Copyright (c) 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc.


Source URL: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1744588,00.asp.




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