27.04.2016

Blind woman sees spots of light for first time in 20 years

Blind woman sees spots of light for first time in 20 years

A blind woman has been able to see spots of light for the first time in 20 years thanks to a prototype bionic eye.


The device, which was created by scientists in Australia and the operation that took place has been heralded as the world's first.

Dianne Ashworth, 54, said after the procedure: "All of a sudden I could see a little flash. It was amazing."

The bionic eye involves the insertion of a device fitted with 24 electrodes into the retina of people who have impaired vision. The electrodes are then used to send impulses to nerve cells within the eye, a process which is usual in people with perfectly functioning eyes.

Professor David Penington from Bionic Vision Australia, who was involved throughout the process, said that he hopes the eye will eventually enable "useful vision" in people suffering from blindness.

"Much still needs to be done in using the current implant to 'build' images for Ms Ashworth. The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices," he explained.

Scientists and researchers behind the device said it is likely patients will be able to see black-and-white images, but that the ability to see the images will allow them to move independently.

Ms Ashworth suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited cause of blindness, and she is currently working with the research team to help them understand exactly what she can see when the eye is stimulated.

Though other international medical suppliers have been working on bionic eyes, Dr Penny Allen, the surgeon who led the transplant team, said the operation was a world first.

She also revealed that the procedure is simple and is something that can easily be taught to surgeons around the world, which could lead to similar operations taking place around the globe in the near future.

"We didn't want to have a device that was too complex in a surgical approach that was very difficult to learn," she revealed.ADNFCR-1853-ID-801439216-ADNFCR


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