First implantation of an early prototype bionic eye with 24 electrodes

Date of Record: 30/08/2012

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.

After years of hard work and planning, Ms Ashworth's implant was switched on last month at the Bionics Institute, while researchers held their breath 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.

Dr Penny Allen, a specialist surgeon at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, led a surgical team to implant the prototype at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. "This is a world first, we implanted a device in this position behind the retina, demonstrating the viability of our approach. Every stage of the procedure was planned and tested, so I felt very confident going into theatre", Dr Allen said.

The implant is only switched on and stimulated after the eye has recovered fully from the effects of surgery. The next phase of this work involves testing various levels of electrical stimulation with Ms Ashworth.