In Australia, a team of researchers has designed a device capable of restoring sight in blind people. The project, already tested on sheep, should soon move on to clinical trials on humans.
As revealed by Monash University website of Melbourne in a press release posted on Monday, September 14, a team of Australian researchers has managed to develop a bionic device qualified as “revolutionary”, which would allow restore vision in blind people using a brain implant. In design for more than 10 years now, the project is now fully ready and researchers are now preparing to a first clinical trial on humans.
How it works ?
But how does this sight restoration system called “Gennaris” work? The principle consists of bypassing damaged optic nerves by creating a “gateway” allowing the transmission of signals between the retina and the brain’s center of vision. The device thus consists of a custom-designed helmet equipped with a camera and a wireless transmitter.
The scene captured by the video camera in the helmet is then sent to a vision processor, equivalent in size to that of a smartphone, which processes the data to extract useful information. Finally, the data is routed to a set of microelectrodes implanted directly in the brain in order to deliver the signals.
Already tested on sheep a few months ago, the device was well accepted by animal brains, and no adverse effects have been observed in the last few 2,700 hours of simulation carried out to date. “Our project creates a visual pattern from combinations of 172 points of light. The visual pattern will provide information enabling the individual to ‘see’ in indoor and outdoor environments, and to recognize the presence of people and people. objects around him “, has explainedArthur Lowery, Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering at Monash University.
Other applications already imagined
And if no date has yet been set for the first tests on humans, the research team is already imagining other applications for their promising technology. Second, the researchers hope to adapt the system to help people with incurable neurological disorders, such as paralysis of the limbs. The device could help these people regain the ability to move.
But before that, there are still a few steps to be taken: researchers now want to collect funds to create a new center entirely dedicated to the restitution of vision and movement. “With an additional investment, we will be able to manufacture these cortical implants here in Australia at the scale needed to move to human trials.”says Marcello Rosa, professor of physiology at Monash and member of the MVG (Monash Vision Group).