Restoring eyesight for the blind is a mission that has always posed major problems for scientists. If surgery can help solve part of the problem today, many people still suffer from blindness. However, a solution could have appeared in the very serious review a few weeks ago nature. Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have just developed a bionic eye that looks like a human eye. A world first that, if confirmed, could be a real medical revolution.
Today 253 million people around the world suffer from a visual impairment, 36 million of them are considered blind. A study published on May 20 therefore gives all these people new hope. To build their bionic eye, the Hong Kong researchers wanted to recreate a human eye. Your prototype EC-EYE for ElectroChemical EYE comes very close to a “normal” eye.
The big challenge for the scientists was to successfully reproduce an artificial retina. The latter consists of nanosensors, similar to the photoreceptor cells that line the back of the human eye. The captured information is then passed through miniature cables like an optic nerve before being analyzed by a computer system.
An eye that is more efficient than the human eye?
The study’s authors are the most enthusiastic. You, who were at the origin of an implant that can perceive some luminous information back in 2011, have just made a big step towards it “The democratization of the bionic eye” which could take place in the next ten years. Comments from the editor of the study, the very reputable journal nature not known for its frenzied fishing positions. It must be said that the Hong Kong project is very attractive. The latter presents almost no risk of rejection by the body, as the eye has been completely modeled.
In terms of performance, it still offers some nice surprises, even if it is not yet comparable to the human eye in all respects. According to Zhiyong Fan, one of the authors of the study, the prototype would be able to take pictures in very low light better than the human eye. The researcher explains that the human eye with its 10 million cells cannot cope with the 460,000 nanosensors per square centimeter of the bionic eye, which captures light much more finely than we do. For Zhiyong fans: “In the future we can use this device to improve the efficiency of eye prostheses or for humanoid robotics.”
A product that remains imperfect
This bionic eye is touted as a miracle solution, but it also has its weaknesses. If it can capture light much finer than the human eye, it still has a resolution that is far below our capabilities. Nevertheless, according to the study, the prototype is limited to a hundred pixels, enough to distinguish letters and shapes, but far too few to compare with a “classic” vision.
Another tricky thing about this technological gem is its field of vision. If it is 160 to 170 degrees for a person, depending on the person, it would only be 100 degrees for the Hong Kong prototype. These boundaries clearly show the path that remains open to researchers in Hong Kong and around the world. Despite everything, this study and prototype remain a great hope for the 1.7 million blind people in France.