“We can rebuild him…” is part of the opening dialogue of the 1970s hit TV series ‘ The Six Million Dollar Man’. Since this science fiction adventure was first broadcast, considerable progress has been made in the field of ‘bionics’. Medical science is a long way off from bringing someone back from the dead, however bionic implants in terms of arm and legs are being developed.
As a new adjunct to the technology, a three year trial has recently been completed for bionic eye retinal implants. The results are promising, and the technology appears to be safe.
The experimental device, known as the Argus II, functions to improve the vision in people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa. RP is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment. The Argus II restores low levels of vision in functionally blind patients.
The device works by using a microscopic video camera, located in the glasses of the patient. The device sends collected information to a special processing unit. The unit then converts the signals to an electronic device implanted into the patient’s retina.
Trials were conducted on 30 subjects in 10 centers in the United States and Europe. Tests showed that 89 percent of the subjects in a trial reported that they received strong images when using the device.
Dr Allen Ho, of Wills Eye Hospital and who was the lead scientist for the study, told the website Zonopa: “I look forward to future studies with this technology, which may make possible expansion of the intended use of the device, including treatment for other diseases and eye injuries.”
Further tests are continuing, based on the very promising results. The Argus II has a unit cost of around $100,000.
The findings have been published in the journal Ophthalmology. The paper, which is open access, is titled “Long-Term Results from an Epiretinal Prosthesis to Restore Sight to the Blind.”