Blind woman sees light with prototype bionic eye

Aug 31, 2012, 06:35 IST | Agencies

A blind woman has been able to see spots of light for the first time in 20 years after scientists in Australia performed an implant of a prototype bionic eye that has been heralded as a world's first.

“All of a sudden I could see a little flash,” said Dianne Ashworth (54), the first woman to be fitted with the device. “It was amazing.”

Vision of the future: Dr Penny Allen (left) with Dianne Ashworth, the first person to receive a successful bionic eye transplant conducted by Bionic Vision Australia. Pic/AFP/Bionic vision Austrlia

The bionic eye, developed by Australian researchers, involves the insertion of a device fitted with 24 electrodes into the retina of vision-impaired patients.

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

Professor David Penington, from Bionic Vision Australia, said he believed the eye would eventually enable “useful vision”. “Much still needs to be done in using the current implant to ‘build’ images for Ashworth,” he said. “The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices.”

Scientists believe the eye will probably result in images in that are black-and-white but eventually allow patients to move independently.

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

39 mn The number of people who are blind in the world, according to the WHO 

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