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Researchers to conduct bionic eye trials in 2013

Researchers to conduct human trials of bionic eye in 2013

Researchers in Australia are to implant a fully functional, $60million bionic eye into human patients as early as next year.

A team from the University of New South Wales has developed a prototype device aimed at restoring vision in people with degenerative retinal conditions.

The Wide-View implant has 98 electrodes, is made of biocompatible materials and is designed to stimulate surviving nerve cells in the retina – a layer of tissue at the back of the eye which converts light into electrical impulses necessary for sight.

"With the bionic eye, images captured by a camera are processed by an external unit such as a smartphone, before being relayed to the implant's chip," explained Professor Gregg Suaning. "This stimulates the retina, sending electrical signals along the optic nerve into the brain where they are decoded as vision."

The researchers believe the implant will enable people to better differentiate between light and dark, and to navigate around their surroundings more independently. "Our primary aim is to complete the first prototypes of the bionic eye so they can be tested in human recipients in 2013," Prof Suaning noted.

The university last week announced the opening of a dedicated $2.5million testing facility. According to Suaning, this will give the team the capacity to not only design and test, but also fabricate novel and intricate bionic implants such as the Wide-View bionic eye.

"The facility will yield enormous potential and promise for future biomedical research and clinical outcomes," he noted. "It will also allow the integration of implantable bionics with wearable sensors for telehealth monitoring, underpinning our future research in personal health systems for managing a wide range of chronic diseases."

Laura Hopperton

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