In a major development, Bionic Vision Australia researchers have successfully performed the first implantation of an early prototype bionic eye with 24 electrodes.
Ms Dianne Ashworth has profound vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition. She has now received what she calls a 'pre-bionic eye' implant that enables her to experience some vision. A passionate technology fan, Ms Ashworth was motivated to make a contribution to the bionic eye research program.
After years of hard work and planning, Ms Ashworth's implant was switched on last month at the Bionics Institute, while researchers held their breaths in the next room, observing via video link.
''I didn't know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash…it was amazing. Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye,'' Ms Ashworth said.
Professor Emeritus David Penington AC, Chairman of Bionic Vision Australia said: ''These results have fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision. 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.''
Professor Anthony Burkitt, Director of Bionic Vision Australia said: ''This outcome is a strong example of what a multi-disciplinary research team can achieve. Funding from the Australian Government was critical in reaching this important milestone. The Bionics Institute and the surgeons at the Centre for Eye Research Australia played a critical role in reaching this point.''