Bionic Vision Technologies, a company in Australia has created the world’s first bionic eye that can restore partial, functional vision to people who have lost their vision due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP). In the United States, this bionic eye has been given “breakthrough” designation by the FDA. This designation will help speed up review and assessment of the device so people who need it can access it quicker. This technology includes tiny cameras in glasses that are able to send electrical signals to an implant behind the eye. These electrical signals can deliver visual information. The company recently published a two-year study where four individuals were wearing that device. The study states participants could identify landmarks like traffic lights, cars, people, and street poles. The bionic eye involved the work of the Center for Eye Research Australia, the Bionics Institute, CSIRO’s Data, and the University of Melbourne. The university has been awarded $1.14 million in grant money to continue working with this bionic eye. They hope to be able to create a retinal implant to further improve this device. Next year the bionic eye will be tested in a global study.
What this means for Usher syndrome: Vision loss in Usher syndrome is caused by RP. This bionic eye is targeted at individuals with RP. It is still being tested but early results suggest it could restore partial vision to the wearer, and that means Usher patients will be able to benefit from this prosthetic.