Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Futuristic System Brings Vision to Blind

14.06.2002


A Saint Louis University neurosurgeon has become the first U.S. doctor to implant a potentially revolutionary electronic eye device that allows a blind patient to see. He is the only United States doctor ever to perform the procedure.



Kenneth R. Smith Jr., M.D., professor of neurosurgery at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, performed the two- to three-hour surgical procedure in Lisbon, Portugal, in April. He was one of four specialists who operated on eight blind patients who paid to receive artificial vision systems developed by the Dobelle Institute.

A report on the progress of the patients -- and news that the artificial vision system now is commercially available abroad -- was presented June 13 at the 48th annual meeting of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs in New York.


"With this technology, there’s new hope that some patients who have lost their vision through trauma can unscramble light patterns well enough to function," Smith said. "Patients who live in darkness potentially have a light at the end of the tunnel."

The artificial vision system is a more complicated version of the visor worn by Geordi La Forge, the blind chief engineer in the science fiction television show Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patients are implanted with devices that act as artificial eyes by stimulating the visual cortex of the brain.

Two patients, who had been totally blind before their surgeries in April, have already learned to use the prosthetic system well enough to slowly drive cars on private property. They could walk freely around a laboratory, avoid obstacles and look outside a window to see a tree.

"It’s amazing now. It was science fiction a few years ago," said William H. Dobelle, Ph.D., chairman and chief executive officer of The Dobelle Institute, developer of the artificial vision system. Dobelle had consulted with the writers of Star Trek: Next Generation, before they created a blind character who used an artificial vision system to see.

"As our technology improves and becomes less costly, Braille will become obsolete, the long cane will become obsolete and the guide dog will become obsolete as surely as the airplane replaced the steamship," Dobelle said.

Smith has been working with the Dobelle Institute, a privately held company that creates medical devices, since 1970. Dobelle began developing an artificial vision system in 1968, and the project has picked up steam as computer technology has improved.

The artificial vision system is designed for patients who have lost their vision from an injury and are not candidates for retinal implants. The procedure costs $98,000.

Patients use special sunglasses fitted with a miniature television camera and a microcomputer and stimulator. The gear attaches by cable to a tiny fire hydrant-like device implanted in the back of the skull that connects to electrodes on the surface of the visual part of the brain.

Patients don’t have "normal" vision." Instead, they see white flashes of light that resemble stars on a black background, and learn to interpret the patterns so they can gain mobility.

"By putting an array of electrodes in the brain, patients see a pattern of white spots that they could learn to interpret well enough to get some useful vision," Smith said.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first M.D. degree west of the Mississippi River. Saint Louis University School of Medicine is a pioneer in geriatric medicine, organ transplantation, chronic disease prevention, cardiovascular disease, neurosciences and vaccine research, among others. The School of Medicine trains physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health services on a local, national and international level.

Nancy Solomon | EurekAlert

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Biofilm discovery suggests new way to prevent dangerous infections
23.05.2017 | University of Texas at Austin

nachricht Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
19.05.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>