Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) recently announced the successful implantation of a "bionic eye" (also called a retinal microchip).
BVA attached the device, which contains 24 electrodes that stimulate the retina's nerve cells, to Dianne Ashworth's retina. Dianne has retinitis pigmentosa, but they hope to also be able to use the device for patients with age-related macular degeneration.
Right now the BVA bionic eye only works when it is hooked up to the computers in the lab and they are using the information they are gathering to understand how the retina works and what Dianne is seeing using the artificial retina. They hope to move on to larger devices with more electrodes and hopefully more visual response.
Articles are describing this as a "world first," but readers of this blog will know that the bionic eye has been in the news for years. A British patient, Peter Lane (who also has retinitis pigmentosa), had a bionic eye implanted in 2009; there was quite a bit of retinal microchip news last year; and just last month we learned that researchers had "broken the code" of the retina in mice and monkeys and implanted an artificial retina that resulted in near normal vision in mice (that's very exciting news).
To learn more about the BVA bionic eye, click here.