A group of Australian institutions, including the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales, the Bionic Ear Institute, Centre for Eye Research Australia and the Victoria Research Laboratory of NICTA, are joining forces to work together on creating a functional bionic eye that would restore vision to those with degenerative or inherited eye disease.
The new consortium, called Bionic Vision Australia, reports:
A bionic eye will assist in restoring patient mobility, independence and quality of life by effectively replacing the function of damaged light-sensing cells in the eye. While the clarity and definition of vision will not be equal to normal sight, the device will allow patients to move around, detect large objects and, in time, read text and recognise faces and emotions.
Bionic Vision Australia has submitted a detailed plan and funding request to the Australian Government to enable it to undertake the required research and early clinical testing. The New South Wales and Victoria governments have both provided support to the partnership to enable the development of the detailed plan.
The proposal follows an 18-month feasibility study undertaken by members of the consortium and heightened public interest in the bionic eye, most notably at the recent Australia 2020 Summit where it was flagged as a “big idea” worthy of consideration for Australia to pursue.
Bionic Vision Australia proposes to have a first advanced prototype ready for the first human implant by early 2012 that delivers significant benefits to patients with severe mobility and light perception difficulties. This device is the result of research undertaken over a 10-year period by the Australian Vision Prosthesis Group at the University of New South Wales. An enhanced second prototype developed at the Victoria Research Laboratory of NICTA could be available for the first human implant by late 2013 and would provide further improved quality of life for patients where image perception is the primary consideration.
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