Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bionic Eyes

Looks like I might have to be eating my words on bionic vision. I've been pretty skeptical on the clinical promise of prosthetic vision systems owing to my time spent in that field during my time as a postdoc. I've always thought the concept was really cool but the technical limitations just too insurmountable to provide meaningful visual sensations. My feeling was that there will be a biological (stem cell-based) solution for blindness that will render the electrical stimulus-based methods obsolete.

That may well still happen but today I'm reading that Second Sight's bionic eye "Argus-II" has been FDA approved, which is amazing. And the patients seem to like it and value whatever level of prosthetic vision it provides, even if its minimal. Good for them! I hope this makes a big splash and a lot of money.

The really interesting question is how willing people will be to undergo the surgery in exchange for a fairly primitive visual system. My experience with blind patients during my postdoc is that they live very full complete lives and, while I'm sure they'd love to have their sense of vision back, they didn't think of themselves as missing out on part of life. Its a big grey area, but one that I'm looking forwards to seeing explored.

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