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The Bionic Eye Is In Sight

The Hatpack simulator. Image: Monash Vision Group

The Hatpack simulator. Image: Monash Vision Group

By Namita Bhojani

After conquering the bionic ear more than 30 years ago, Australian scientists have set their sights on the bionic eye.

Namita Bhojani is a freelance science writer, and an Education Officer with the CSIRO and Monash Science Centre.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In 1970, Professor Graeme Clark led the team that developed the bionic ear. He implanted it successfully into the first patient in 1978 and, since then, the cochlear implant has helped tens of thousands of hearing-impaired people. Now, more then 30 years later, the race is on to develop a bionic eye, and Australia is once more a serious contender.

Blindness affects 39 million people worldwide, so a device to restore functional sight to at least some of them promises enormous potential. Labs all over the world are developing various versions of a bionic eye, with groups in California and Germany already trialling retinal implants in patients.

The Australian government has committed $50 million through the ARC Research in Bionic Vision Science and Technology Initiative for the development of a functional bionic eye. Two proposals were approved for funding from 2010 until 2014, with Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) and Monash Vision Group tackling the bionic eye challenge from different entry points into the visual system.

The Eye
A healthy eye works by focusing an image onto the retina, which is a sheet of light-sensitive cells (photoreceptors) and neurons at the back of your eye. Neurons in the retina translate the light signals into electrical signals that are carried along the optic nerve to the brain, where they are processed...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.