If there is anything the internet likes it is a feel-good, happy story. The only thing that could be better than that is a feel-good happy story that involves some pretty incredible science.
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Take for instance, the story of Allen Zderad who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a rare degenerative eye disorder. When someone suffers from RP, which is genetic, there is a loss of cells called photoreceptors in the retina. Most people who suffer from RP experience night blindness, but in Allen’s case it caused him to go totally blind. He slowly started losing his vision almost 20 years ago, and despite being completely blind and having to quit his job as a chemist, he was able to teach himself how to continue with his hobby of woodworking.
A Solution for an Incurable Condition
An ophthalmologist at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Raymond Iezzi got wind of Allen’s situation and was interested in helping him. Iezzi was actually heading a clinical trial of a brand new bionic eye. Iezzi explains that although RP causes a degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the retina, the rest of the eye remains healthy. Most importantly, the cells which form the optic nerve are intact. So naturally, Allen signed himself up and became Iezzi’s first patient to be fitted with the prosthesis, which is made by a company called Second Sight.
The Bionic Eye
Because the optic nerve is intact, the idea was to replace the function of the photoreceptors by bypassing the damaged retina, and sending visual signals directly to the retina. They did this by implanting a multi-electrode chip with 60 points of contact directly into the eyeball with an electronics package surrounding the outside of the eye. The electronics package is then hooked up to a pair of glasses featuring a camera that is hooked to a small patient-worn computer. The images from the camera are sent to the computer, which interprets them as light signals, and sends them to the brain – via the bionic eye and optic nerve.
Read: Who Better to Deliver a Bionic Arm than Tony Stark Himself?
He Once was Blind…
So let’s say you’ve been blind for 20 years, and you see for the first time – just imagine that sensation. Allen could barely contain himself, but when he saw the image of his wife for the first time in 20 years, the emotions take over. It’s just a beautiful scene…
It is amazing how science can change someone’s life.
The device still needs further development, and Allen is undergoing physical therapy to get used to wearing the device, but in the end it has improved his quality of life tremendously. He can already see things like human forms, and outlines of objects that allows him to walk without a cane. As the device develops, the images that allen see are getting clearer, and science has proven that there is almost nothing that it cannot fix.