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World’s first bionic eye implant successful

Updated: Aug 30, 2012, 12:29 PM IST

Wellington: Researchers have confirmed the potential of the bionic eye after a blind woman could see spots of light after being implanted with an early prototype of the world-first technology.

Australian researchers have been working for years to develop the bionic eye, in which electrodes are inserted into the retina of vision-impaired patients.

Dianne Ashworth was the first patient fitted with the device in a surgery that took place at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in May.

It was switched on last month at the Bionics Institute in East Melbourne after her eye had recovered fully from surgery.

“All of a sudden I could see a little flash ... it was amazing,” quoted Ashworth as saying.

“Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye,” she said.

The electrodes send electrical impulses to nerve cells in the eye, which occur naturally in people with normal vision.

In the early prototype bionic eye, the electrodes are connected to a receptor fitted to the back of 54-year-old’s ear, which is then plugged in through an external wire to a unit in the laboratory.

Researchers in the laboratory use the unit to control the information sent to Ashworth’s eye, allowing them to study how the brain reacts.

Feedback from Ashworth will allow researchers to develop a vision processor so they can build images using flashes of light.