Hawaii woman gets bionic eye

Lead surgeon Dr. Gregg Komane: "If you can imagine if somebody is in total darkness and then they are actually able to see."
By Brooks Hays   |   March 26, 2015 at 11:38 AM
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HONOLULU, March 26 (UPI) -- After two years of blindness, a 72-year-old woman in Hawaii can see once more. On Wednesday, the woman underwent a four-hour bionic eye implant surgery at the Hawaii Eye Surgery Center in Honolulu. Doctors report the successful surgery has partially restored her vision.

For now, the woman can only see shades of gray. But as she recovers in the coming weeks, doctors expect her vision to slowly improve. It's possible that within two months the patient will be able to make out shapes, movement and up to nine colors.

"You don't put the chip on and flip a switch and they see, it takes a while for the brain to start seeing again," inventor Dr. Mark Humayan told ABC News.

The microchip implant must be paired with special glasses. A camera in the glasses will process the outside world, using the microchip to transport those images through the retina and optic nerve and into the brain.

"We have hundreds of millions of photo receptors in our eye, hundreds of millions, and with only 60 pixels patients who were completely blind can see large objects, can tell a table from a chair or a knife from a fork or a plate so it's very exciting to see what the brain is able to fill in," Humayan told Hawaii News Now.

"If you can imagine if somebody is in total darkness and then they are actually able to see down a hallway and see somebody walk in a room, it's just a huge impactful, impact on their life," added lead surgeon Dr. Gregg Komane.

As of now, the bionic implant only works for those who have lost their eyesight as a result of a hereditary disease called retinitis pigmentosa. But Humayan is hopeful the technology can be adapted to address other eyesight problems and counteract other causes of blindness.

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