Bionic vision researchers intend to test a functional bionic eye on patients next year.
“Our primary aim is to complete the first prototypes of the bionic eye so they can be tested in human recipients in 2013,” said Gregg Suaning, a professor from the University of New South Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, in a statement.
Suaning is also the leader of Bionic Vision Australia’s wide-view device, the first of two prototypes designed to restore vision in people with degenerative retinal conditions.
It consists of 98 electrodes that stimulate nerve cells in the retina, which is a tissue lining the back of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses necessary for sight, and allow users to better differentiate between light and dark.
With the bionic eye, images taken by a camera are processed in an external unit, such as a smartphone, then relayed to the implant’s chip. This stimulates the retina by sending electric signals along the optic nerve into the brain where they are decoded as vision.
The University of New South Wales has spent $2.5 million upgrading its labs to enable bionic vision researchers to produce medical implants.
The new labs feature a high-temperature press to develop platinum-ceramic connects used in the device, laser system for modifying surfaces and building microscopic components, plasma reactors for treating polymer surfaces, probing machines to test the performance of microelectronics, and a clean room.
“The new laboratory gives us the capacity to not only design and test, but to also fabricate novel and intricate bionic implants,” Suaning said.
“It will yield enormous potential and promise for future biomedical research and clinical outcomes.”
NSW chief scientist professor, Mary O’Kane, will open the labs today at 3pm.
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