In April of 2021, we brought you news of a bioelectronics company winning the HealthTech Award 2020 for its Prima System — a next-gen bionic vision technology designed to enable vision for blind people. The Prima System consisted of a photovoltaic substitute of photoreceptors that enabled the use of central prosthetic and peripheral natural vision at the same time for people with atrophic dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Now, we have news of a new sight-restoring technology in the works that aims to engineer a bionic eye good enough for human trials. The invention is called the Phoenix99 Bionic Eye and it is an implantable system, designed to restore a form of vision to patients living with severe vision impairment and blindness caused by degenerative diseases.
So far, the implantable device, which consists of two components, has been found to be safe.
“Importantly, we found the device has a very low impact on the neurons required to ‘trick’ the brain. There were no unexpected reactions from the tissue around the device and we expect it could safely remain in place for many years,” said in a statement Samuel Eggenberger, a biomedical engineer who is completing his doctorate with Head of School of Biomedical Engineering Professor Gregg Suaning.
“Our team is thrilled by this extraordinary result, which gives us confidence to push on towards human trials of the device,” said Eggenberger.
The device's two main components which need to be implanted consist of a stimulator attached to the eye and a communication module positioned under the skin behind the ear. Sheep trials showed that the body accepted both these elements and furthermore healed around them. The team is now applying for ethics approval to perform clinical trials in human patients.
The study was published in Biomaterials.