German scientists have developed an eye implant that allows blind people to see shapes and shades. It is the first step in creating a fully functional eye implant that will one day cure blindness.
In one experiment a man that is blind due to hereditary retinal degeneration has been able to read letters and a clock face using the German eye implant.
The Sub-retinal Chip
This new technology actually allows people to use their eyes to see, rather than using a micro camera to then transmit images direct to the brain. By using the neural connections between the eye and the brain scientists do not need to develop a way to dicepher the images – the eye can do that already.
The main results of the study are as follows:
“three previously blind persons could locate bright objects on a dark table, two of whom could discern grating patterns. One of these patients was able to correctly describe and name objects like a fork or knife on a table, geometric patterns, different kinds of fruit and discern shades of grey with only 15 per cent contrast. Without a training period, the regained visual functions enabled him to localize and approach persons in a room freely and to read large letters as complete words after several years of blindness. These results demonstrate for the first time that subretinal micro-electrode arrays with 1500 photodiodes can create detailed meaningful visual perception in previously blind individuals.”
Professor Eberhart Zrenner, University of Tuebingen, Germany
The lead researcher is Professor Eberhart Zrenner from Germany’s University of Tuebingen, He has worked with scientists from Retina Implant AG and helped to develop the chip that has so far been tested on 11 people.
The study has proved that subretinal micro-electrodes can restore vision in patients that have been blinded due to hereditary retinal degeneration.
Details of Research and Development
Research was published in the Proceedings of he Royal Society:
“Subretinal electronic chips allow blind patients to read letters and combine them to words” Eberhart Zrenner et al http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/11/01/rspb.2010.1747.full