How close are we to restoring sight in blind people?

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Paul Anderson

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Paul Anderson  asked the Naked Scientists:

Hi Chris and team,

Some years ago I read of images being somehow being formed on a blind person's back to aid the person to seeŁ. I think it was preliminary experimentation and I don't know why they chose the back, unless it was a relatively flat surface.

Would someone like to comment on the latest advances in aiding blind folk to see and whether we have got any methods of providing colour in addition to just black and white or grey dot pictures, like the old newspaper photos?

I would like to see electronic glasses invented which adjust focus automatically by sensing what one's mind is trying to focus upon and adjusting the curvature of the lens.

There are ornaments which involve different coloured oils in jars where you can see them displaying different patterns. If a liquid substance could be found which could be modified by an electric field to adjust the curvature of a bubble of oil suspended, this would adjust the focus, and if this could be scaled down to layers of chemicals or oils either on the surface of a sheet of glass/plastic or between two sheets of glass/plastic, and the electrical field is influenced by our brain signals, we might be able to develop electronic glasses.

However with all ideas I think of, someone seems to have always already invented them. Is there research going on along these lines?

What do you think?


Offline AnatomyAngel

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How close are we to restoring sight in blind people?
« Reply #1 on: 14/10/2008 06:46:24 »
Check this article out...I had read something similar back in 2005, but this looks quite recent (April 2008)

newbielink: [nonactive]

"Researchers have performed the first successful bionic eye implants in the United States and Britain and have given three people previously blind people the gift of sight.  The pea-sized implants are actually video cameras that transmit signals to the optic nerves.  This gives the patient rudimentary black and white vision, good enough to detect motion and obstacles.

"Mark Humayun, Professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering at the Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles, developed the bionic eye which is part of the Argus II retinal implant project.  The eye is linked up to an artificial retina and transmits black and white images to the optic nerve through a sunglasses-mounted transmitter.

"US resident Linda Moorfoot was the first patient and received an eye with 16 electrodes, while two patients in Britain received implants with 60 electrodes each.  Professor Humayun says bionic eye technology is rapidly advancing and expects to have an eye with 1000 electrodes within the next four to five years.  These eyes would give patients basic facial recognition.

"Sky News has video and some pictures of the artificial eye.  You can view their article here.

"An Australian team is also in the bionic eye race and expects to perform its first operation with a few weeks.  They will be implanting a 30-electrode eye."