Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a retinal degenerative disease that causes a sequential loss of central vision. In individuals over the age of 50 years, AMD is said to be the root cause of vision loss in most patients. Such a degenerative blindness is scary as vision is gradually lost, visible area starts to shrink starting from the center and focus starts to reduce ultimately leading to no vision and just blackness.
Joseph Rizzo is trying to figure out this disease and find out ways to cure blindness. He along with his partner and collaborator John Wyatt are working on a bionic eye project that is to channelize the idea of augmenting the existing organ instead of using a transplant from another patient’s eye. Rizzo realized that this was a better technique while performing a transplant surgery, while removing the tissue that was still healthy and would serve the patient better by still staying intact.
The advantage of using current tissue is the nerve endings in the eye. Detaching and rejoining different nerve endings is risky and is unlikely to bring notable results. However, John Wyatt assisted Rizzo by bringing in techniques from the microchip industry in order to create ultra-thin and flexible electrode arrays. The material to be used needs to be extremely thin for the coil to make contact with the retina without damaging it.
This research focuses on taking digital signals from a camera and converting them into signals that can be processed by human brain. Patients will wear spectacles with this distinctive camera attached that will see the world and convey the signal and images to the eye.
The base for this Bionic eye project was set way back in the 1980’s by the Boston Retinal Impact Project that established the first team to exert on prosthetic retina, making the ongoing research over 20 years old, clearly indicating the high significance of the scope of the project. Let us hope it brings fruitful results in the nearest future for those who have lost their sight and along with it the hope to see the world!