Blindness is one of the most serious medical conditions that exist in the modern world. In part, this is because blindness causes such a huge disruption to a sufferer’s day-to-day routine, so much so that it is ranked up there along with disease names such as cancer, HIV, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it should also be noted that blindness is something that can affect all people out there because there is an enormous number of potential causes.
After all, there are those who become blind because of eye disease, those who become blind because of eye trauma, and those who become blind because of something as universal as the onset of old age. As a result, there are numerous companies as well as other institutions with a strong interest in combating blindness.
How Can Blindness Be Combated?
Of course, combating blindness is not a single thing so much as a host of things with a shared purpose because blindness has more than one cause. For example, some institutions combat blindness by providing preventative healthcare for the eye so that they can catch and correct potential issues before they become sight-threatening problems, while other institutions combat blindness by teaching those who are most susceptible about potential risks as well as how they can minimize those same risks.
However, one of the most interesting developments in these institutions’ continuing efforts to combat blindness is the creation of bionic eyes as well as other ways to restore their sight to those who have lost it. Something that sounds like it belongs in science fiction, but has nonetheless managed to make it way into real life, so much so that it is not just in development but has actually been approved by the FDA for the use of sufferers from blindness.
Who Are the Ones Combating Blindness?
Here are some examples of the companies and other institutions that are combating blindness by coming up with a way to restore sight to those who have lost it:
1. The bionic eye actually refers to something called the Argus retinal prosthesis, which was created by Second Sight Medical Products for the purpose of treating severe cases of Retinitis Pigmentosa. In short, Retinitis Pigmentosa is a inheritable medical condition that can appear anytime between early infancy and late adulthood, thus leading to progressive vision loss that will culminate in total vision loss in the fullness of time. Sometimes, it shows up in sufferers on its own, while other times, it comes paired with other serious medical conditions as well. Regardless, the bionic eye consists of a camera installed on eyeglasses, which captures images that are sent to a processor that is connected to the actual implant on the surface of the retina.
Although it is not able to restore full vision to those who have lost their sight because of Retinitis Pigmentosa, it is nonetheless capable of producing incredible improvements, thus making it more than deserving of its name. However, since the methods used in its creation and installation are still so new, the bionic eye comes at a cost of about $150,000 in US dollars, which is expensive but still well worth the cost to those who can afford it.
2. Claude Veraart at the University of Lorraine came up with something called the microsystem-based visual prosthesis. In short, it consists of a spiral cuff electrode that is installed around the optic nerve at the back of the eye, which is in turn, connected to a small stimulator implanted in the skull. By using the stimulator, the recipient can receive signals from an external camera, thus telling the electrode how it should be stimulating the optic nerve for the right results. Although the microsystem-based visual prosthesis cannot be considered an elegant solution to the problem of blindness, it is nonetheless a functional one, which is rather remarkable considering that such things are still in their earlier stages.
3. The implantable miniature telescope was created by VisionCare Ophthalmic with some outside assistance as well. Like its name suggests, it is implanted in the posterior chamber of the eye so that it can increase the size of the image projected onto the retina as a way of combating blind spots. As a result, it is not a way of restoring sight to those who have lost it so much as a way of mitigating problems with their eye. At the moment, the implantable miniature telescope costs about $15,000, though it should be noted that this does not actually include the cost of surgery as well as the cost of the subsequent rehabilitation, meaning that those are things that should be taken into consideration by those who are interested in its potential for either them or their friends and relatives.
4. Alan Chow and Vincent Chow are brothers who have been working on artificial silicone retinas, which are microchips containing photo diodes that will be used to stimulate the ganglion cells of the retinal by converting light into electric signals. Unlike the other examples mentioned here, artificial silicone retinas are interesting in that they have no external component, meaning that the recipient will not have to wear anything else while they are in use. However, it should be noted that this is still far from being available as a commercial product, seeing as how Optobionics are still running clinical tests on those who are interested in what artificial silicone retinas can do for them.
Given the continuing interest in curing blindness, it seems probable that research into bionic eyes as well as other potential solutions to the problem will bear more and more fruit in the future, particularly since those mentioned here are no more than a small number of the projects that are currently underway. As a result, we can expect their costs to fall more and more, thus making something that is expensive, complicated, and time-consuming in the present to become less so. Something that promises to make an enormous difference for an enormous number of people not just in developed countries but also in other countries all around the world.