Professor Gregg Suaning has been working for more than 20 years to help restore vision. Currently, he is working on a technology similar to cochlear implants; a pair of glasses that has a camera attached to them. This camera will send visual information to a person’s cell phone that processes it and then sends it wirelessly to a microchip that is surgically placed in the retina. This microchip then processes this signal and sends electrical impulses to the visual cortex in the brain. One of the challenges includes making sure the visual information that is captured is actually meaningful to the brain. It will not be like a full visual experience, but it should help people with vision loss to recognize objects and avoid obstacles. With recent donations from the Neil and Norma Hill Foundation, Suaning is able to expand his research. His technology will now include macular degeneration in addition to retinitis pigmentosa. He is working with the University of Sydney, and his new technology will soon begin human clinical trials, where volunteers will be able to take the equipment home.
What this means for Usher syndrome: Vision loss in Usher syndrome can be caused by retinitis pigmentosa (RP). If proven effective, this potential prosthetic may one day provide Usher patients with new or improved vision that would help them see and navigate their world.