Bionic Eyes To Help The Blind See
February 19, 2013

Bionic Eyes To Help The Blind See

Terminal blindness is a medical condition feared by many Americans and, thanks to Dr. Mark Humayn, a select few blind patients may be allowed to see again with the help of Bionic Eyes.

Call it awkward, but I think it’s just plain miraculous. It’s miraculous that for thousands of years we have thought of blindness as a permanent and irreversible condition and we may now have a solution to the problem. No, the solution is not a cure for blindness, but a set of surgically implanted goggles that plug into your retina.

Dr. Mark Humayun is a professor of biomedical engineering and is the Cell and Neurobiology Associate Director of Research at the University of South Carolina. Humayun has over 25 years of experience with retina research and has built a solid set of bionic eyes that can help terminally blind people see again. (You may view the article here.)

The bionic eyes don’t help to cure eyesight, but are surgically implanted into the head to allow for detection of light in dark places. The device is called The Argus 2, and has the capability of recording a video-like light and dark retina detection camera that can show the video inside your brain so that you may see what’s in front of you. Twenty five long years have gone into the thinking and building process of this device and Humayun regards it as one of the next best things in bio-technological science.

The name of this device seems to take its meaning from Argus Panoptes, whom in Greek mythology was a primordial giant and was regarded as all seeing — even having one hundred eyes. This name is very suitable for a device that primarily assists people with eye sight, likely creating the epithet that they might be “All-Seeing”. Is the device as dramatic as an all seeing Greek giant?

Probably not, but Kathy Blake might beg to differ. Blake has struggled with blindness for 23 years and just recently began her life with the Argus 2. She’s now able to do color laundry and certain outdoor activities with as regular mobility as a normal person. The only description we have on the output of the glasses is that images of light are fed back to the retina. This could mean that instead of seeing different hues, patients will see grey shades and certain negative outlines of colors.

Currently, the FDA only approves the device for patients with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that damages the retina. If the device can garner enough attention, it might possibly be approved for millions of blind patients with different eye diseases in the future.

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