When it comes to artificial sight or bionic retinas, the first thing that comes to mind is the popular seventies show the Six Million Dollar Man. Lee Majors played Colonel Steve Austin who was brought back to life by replacing the majority of his body with a new type of technology known as bionics. What I liked about his character was that he had a bionic left eye. Thirty plus years ago bionics was just a part of science fiction. Today, it might just be possible.
The word bionics means the science of applying electronic principles and devices, such as computers and
solid-state miniaturized circuitry, to medical problems. The word bionic was coined by Dr. Jack E. Steele in 1958 and has become quite popular ever since then. Bionics has been used in the Sci-Fi genre, technology and now more than ever, medicine.
So what does bionics mean for the blind? Good question. The first time I heard of using bionics in regards to restoring vision was many years ago. A corporation by the name of Optobionics developed the ASR (Artificial Silicon Retina) Microchip to help patients living with Retinitis Pigmentosa. Forty-two patients with different degrees of Retinitis Pigmentosa had the ASR Microchip implanted behind the retina and regained some vision over several years.
Fast forward. There is now a company by the name of Second Sight who has developed the Argus II. This bionic prosthesis is a bit more complicated then what Optobionics had in mind. During a four hour surgical procedure a radio transmitted antenna is implanted behind the retina. Then with the use of specially equipped glasses and other hardware, the patient may regain a small bit of sight.
Finally, we come to the Bio-Retina developed by Nano Retina. This bionic implant is less invasive then the Argus II. With this procedure laser beams are directed into the iris through a corrective lens. The surgical procedure is only about 30 minutes and costs less than the Argus II.
We have been given the technology. We have even been given the medical ability to develop “new” sight for the blind. However, I’m just not sure I want to be the next Bionic Woman.
Would you be willing to have one of these bionic procedures done to restore some of your vision? I’m not 100% sure I would. With my luck. I would set off the metal detector at the airport. I could just see myself having to explain to the TSA Officer that it’s okay, I’m just bionic!
Please let me know your thoughts about bionic implants by leaving me a comment.