For those who don’t get to “see” the world, life can be very different and challenging. Scientists have long been struggling to help those who are sight-impaired, but progress has been slow. The eye is an extremely complex organ, and trying to duplicate its mechanisms has proved almost impossible. Now, an amazing health breakthrough has just been developed to tackle this problem. It’s a bionic eye that’s just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for commercial sale.
The bionic device is called the “Argus II,” and it has been tested in blind people over the past couple of years. While the device doesn’t allow anyone who’s sight-impaired to see in color, it does allow a blind individual to see the outline of objects. If this doesn’t sound like much of an improvement, it’s still pretty spectacular for those who can’t see at all.
Here are the results from two recent studies that examined the performance of the Argus II. The first was conducted on 28 blind subjects who were implanted with a 60-electrode Argus II. All the participants suffered from retinitis pigmentosa and had only bare light perception or worse in both eyes.
The study measured their ability to detect the direction of motion of a high-contrast moving bar on a flat-screen monitor in three conditions: with the prosthesis system on, with the system off, and with the system on but with randomly scrambled spatial information. Of the participants, 54% were able to perform the task significantly better with the prosthesis system than they were with their residual vision.
The second study was conducted at John Hopkins University and attempted to measure the capabilities of the Argus II for guiding fine hand movement. This time, 21 patients with retinitis pigmentosa used a touch-screen to trace white paths on black backgrounds. The researchers found that average tracing error was reduced by 63% and tracing time increased by 156% when using the prosthesis, relative to residual vision.
Although these achievements may seem small in comparison to regaining full sight, it’s still an amazing invention that has broken new ground for those who are sight-impaired.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
New Technology Is Helping Blind People to See
Dorn, J.D., et al., “The Detection of Motion by Blind Subjects With the Epiretinal 60-Electrode (Argus II) Retinal Prosthesis,” Arch Ophthalmol. October 8, 2012: 1–7.
Barry, M.P., et al., “Use of the Argus II retinal prosthesis to improve visual guidance of fine hand movements,” Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. August 1, 2012; 53(9): 5,095–101.