German scientists develop bionic eye

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German researchers today reported that a 12-year project to develop a wireless implant that can restore vision to the blind has been successful..

The researchers unveiled details of a fully implantable visual prosthesis for patients who have lost their sight through diseases of the retina.

Sufferers of retinitis pigmentosa have light sensitive cells in the retina destroyed, but the connection of the nerve cells to the brain remains intact. The scientists have bypassed the defects of the retina by means of a visual prosthesis.

The system comprises the implant and an external transmitter integrated in a spectacle-frame.

The implant system converts the image patterns into interpretable stimulation signals, and data and energy are transferred to the implant by a telemetric link.

Nerve cells inside the eye are then stimulated according to the captured images. The intact cells are innervated by means of 3D stimulation electrodes that rest against the retina like small studs.

"For normally sighted people this may not seem much, but for the blind it is a major step," said Dr Hoc Khiem Trieu from the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS in Duisburg.

The project was funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
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