American Scientists Have Helped a Person Blind From Birth to See Again
MINNESOTA — August 30, 2018
Researchers from the University of Minnesota printed an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface. And they believe that the so-called 'bionic eye' could soon let blind people see, or the sighted see better.
A co-author of the study, Michael McAlpine, said that the "Bionic eyes are usually thought of as science fiction, but now we are closer than ever using a multi-material 3D printer.'
To create the bionic eye, the researchers started with a hemispherical glass dome.
Then, using a 3D-printer, they created a base ink of silver particles, before printing ‘photodiodes’ - semiconductors that convert light into electricity.
During testing, the team found that the 3D-printed semiconductors could convert light into electricity with 25 percent efficiency.
In the clinical trial, 89% of patients performed significantly better on a test that required touching a white square on a black screen using the retinal implant system, compared to when they tried the test with the implant turned off.
Patients were also better at an important practical task with their implants turned on, successfully identifying a door 54% of the time on average, compared to only 19% of the time without implants on.
The team now plans to create a prototype with more light receptors that are even more efficient. A clinical trial of the device has been ongoing in 10 vision centers across the United States and in Europe. Researchers from those centers published results from the first three years of the trial in Ophthalmology, according to the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
They’d also like to find a way to print on a softer material that can be implanted into a real eye.
Allen Zderad, a retinitis pigmentosa patient who got the retinal implant through the Mayo Clinic, described what he saw when his implant was turned on like this: "It's a pulsing light, it's not like regular vision where it's, like, constant, it's the flash, and I've got to be able to interpret the changes in that shape."
"It's crude, but it's significant," Zderad went on to say in a video from the Mayo Clinic.
A few years ago another device called the Argus II was created. Known as the "bionic eye," it gave a glimmer of hope that some patients' sight might be restored.
The Argus II system consists of a pair of glasses with a small video camera mounted on it, which captures images. A prosthesis no larger than a pencil eraser is surgically implanted on the surface of the retina and information from the camera is transmitted wirelessly to electrodes on the artificial retina, where it is converted to electrical pulses.
Any remaining cells that haven't been damaged by the eye disease are stimulated by the pulses, leading to a perception of light patterns in the brain.
Now scientists have modified it and recreated the same device using a 3D printer.