Retinal implant allows the blind to see again

Blindness is arguably one of the worst afflictions one can have, making life exceedingly difficult. Nine people have been liberated from the from their blindness, however, thanks to a retinal implant that restores light to an eye that otherwise can't see it. Called the Alpha IMS, this device utilizes the eye's own neurons, unlike some other devices.

The device is implanted in the patient's head and is powered via a separate battery pack that is wireless and located outside of the body. Underneath the retina, a grid containing 1500 electrodes is implanted, a method said to provide the patient with a higher resolution sight than other options.The implant works by detecting light.

The amount of light detected can be controlled by the patient via a dial that is located behind the ear. The grid works in much the same way as the light-detecting cells in the eyes, and for this reason it does not work for just any type of blindness. Rather, it works for those who have lost their vision due to a condition that has destroyed the eye's ability to detect light.

The biggest advantage to the Alpha IMS over other camera-based methods is that it is more natural, and doesn't require the patient to wear a camera. Because the implant is under the retina, the eye can be moved naturally to look around, giving the patient more freedom and a more natural vision. The patient's own eye is responsible for detecting contrast and other such things.

[via New Scientist]