University makes microchip for bionic eye
Dubai, June 25, 2012
A team of electrical engineers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has developed a new microchip to power a bionic eye which could ultimately enable the blind to see.
Led by the Monash Vision Group at Monash University, one of Australia’s top education institutions, the Melbourne team’s results suggest that the project is on track to deliver a direct-to-brain bionic eye implant ready for patient testing by the year 2014, a statement from the university said.
The team of 50 Melbourne researchers and industry collaborators with MVG have been laboratory testing the microchip and pre-clinical assessments are due to begin shortly, the statement said. The team is on track to have a direct-to-brain bionic eye implant ready for human tests in 2014.
Many people who are clinically blind or vision impaired have damaged optical nerves, which prevent signals reaching the brain. MVG aims to restore a sense of sight by transmitting wireless signals directly to an implant in the brain.
The MVG brain implant could bring sight to up to 85 per cent of clinically blind people, including those affected by untreatable causes of blindness: diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, as well as people with acquired retinal, optic nerve or ocular disease.
Unlike many other bionic eye projects currently in development, MVG’s bionic eye concept bypasses the actual eye altogether, it said. It consists of a special pair of glasses with a tiny high-resolution camera that serves as a retina and a pocket-worn digital processing unit designed for converting recorded video into electrical signals.
Microchips implanted directly on the surface of the patient’s visual cortex, located in the back of their brain, will receive low-resolution, black-and-white images from the digital processing unit. These signals, through hundreds of hair-thin electrodes, will stimulate the visual cortex, enabling the brain to build up a visual construct in a fundamental, albeit, limited way.
Professor Arthur Lowery, director of MVG, said: “The power of electronics has grown significantly over the years, and at the same time has become much smaller and energy efficient. This allows us to implant significant processing power within the human body and power it wirelessly. This miniaturisation is one of the keys to us being able to implant several hundred electrodes in the brain, to provide useful vision.”
Melbourne’s position as one of the world’s premier academic cities continues to grow. Melbourne-based Monash University was established in 1958 and in 2011 was ranked as the world’s 117th best higher education institution and Australia’s fifth by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
In 2011, the State of Victoria had 162,417 enrolments from international students, including 6,447 from the Middle East. It is also home to eight other universities, including the University of Melbourne, Australia’s highest-ranked high education institution which is currently ranked 37th best in the world.
Monash University’s education links with the UAE were boosted in February following a signed partnership between the university and the Abu Dhabi-based Fatimah College of Health Sciences.
The five year agreement has seen the Monash University Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences and Fatima College offer Emirati students four Bachelor level courses in Allied Health, one of the UAE’s priority health sectors. – TradeArabia News Service
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