Australian woman receives world’s first bionic eye

Posted at 8:12 AM, Aug 30, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-30 08:12:01-04

MELBOURNE, Australia (WTVR) – Researchers at Bionic Vision Australia have successfully performed the first bionic eye implant.

The bionic eye was implanted at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in a woman who has profound vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition.

Ms. Dianne Ashworth received the ‘pre-bionic eye’ implant which was switched on last month at the Bionics Institute after years of hard work and planning.

With researchers watching via video link in the next room, Ms. Ashworth reported experiencing some vision: “I didn’t know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash…it was amazing. Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye,” she said.

The prototype consists of a retinal implant with 24 electrodes. A small lead wire extends from the back of the eye to a connector behind the ear. An external system is connected to this unit in the laboratory, allowing researchers to stimulate the implant in a controlled manner in order to study the flashes of light.

This early prototype does not incorporate an external camera – yet. This is planned for the next stage of development and testing.

Experts say there is still much to be done until they’re ready to implant full devices but say the results fulfilled their best expectations.