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Bionic eye lets the blind see

Posted November 10, 2010 1:53 p.m. EST
Updated November 10, 2010 6:51 p.m. EST

A medical breakthough that allows some blind people to see could change the way doctors treat blindness.

Miika Terho hasn't been able to see for more than 15 years. In 1992, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, or RP. The condition destroyed his retina.

However, Terho can see black and white images again, thanks to a tiny microchip implanted behind his eye.

The microchip does the work of the retina, processing light and sending signals to the brain.

Scientists said this bionic eye procedure is more advanced than other treatments, because it relies on the eye itself to transmit images.

The microchip "fits under the retina, and it uses the retina's own circuitry to create an image," said Dr. Shantan Reddy, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

The device has been tested successfully on three people. Scientists are planning larger studies and hope the technology will be on the market in five years. Researchers are working on improving the technology so patients can see in full color.

Jonathan Abro welcomed that news. He has RP, and the condition has been slowly destroying his vision.

"Anything that is helping us people who can't see properly or not at all is fantastic," Abro said.

Doctors said they hope this bionic eye will lead to treatments for other forms of blindness.

"This has great potential to help this group of patients," Reddy said.