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Bionic Eye Telescope To Treat Macular Degeneration

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the all-hail-the-new-cyborgz dept.

Biotech 55

Al writes "A miniature telescope that fits inside the eye of someone with macular degeneration and helps them regain normal vision has been developed by a start-up company called VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies. Macular degeneration affects the center of the retina, making it difficult to read, watch television and recognize faces. The new device, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, works like a fixed telephoto lens within the eye, projecting a magnified image of whatever the wearer is looking at onto a large part of the peripheral retina. Magnifying the image on the eye allows the retinal cells outside the macula to participate, and enables a patient to recognize details using their peripheral vision. Clinical trials suggest that the device could improve vision by about three and a half lines on an eye chart. Last week, an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommended that the agency approve the implant."

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__TAG_WIDGET__ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451107)

I think it can be addressed with __TAG_WIDGET__

New achievement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451153)

Hey, the parent AC and I both saw __TAG_WIDGET__ in place of the, well, tag widget! Does that mean we both get the 'Saw something Taco and the Slashteam forked up' achievement?

Re:__TAG_WIDGET__ (1)

krou (1027572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451159)

Personally, I think it's !__TAG_WIDGET__

TAG (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451327)

TAG=Techniques d'Avant Garde

Bionic Man? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451181)

I wonder if this could give someone with normal visions "extra super visions"; I suppose this is one step of many to truely create the 1 million dollar man

Re:Bionic Man? (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451379)

I don't think so.
Steve Austin could read the copyright notice in fine print from 200 yards away.

With this you'll be able to read street signs but not books or computer screen.
For Nerds this is a "Fail".
For Joe-six-pack it's being able to pick up the right beer can from the table.

Re:Bionic Man? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454285)

For Nerds this is a "Fail".

It may not be incredibly good now, but how many technological fields have simply stopped improving? Meaning the equipment 15 years ago is practically identical to the equipment now?

Babbage Difference Engine >> ENIAC >> Mainframe >> Macintosh PC >> Quad-Core gaming rig
VHS >> DVD >> Bluray
Tape >> Floppy >> HDD >> SSD
etc.

Re:Bionic Man? (1)

FesterDaFelcher (651853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452061)

Or, you could buy binoculars.

Re:Bionic Man? (2, Insightful)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453747)

The central fovea of the human retina has the highest density of cones sensitive to color, while peripheral vision is populated by rods which are sensitive to light intensity only.

For somebody with normal vision, redirecting light from the fovea to peripheral vision isn't going to have any benefit, but for someone with no central vision who cannot perceive texture (ie.text) or color, regaining the ability to read text is going to be of great benefit.

Good? (1)

thephydes (727739) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451203)

Being the selfish bastard that I am, this is good news, although I hope my MD never gets that far. I just wonder about the cost and the risks of what is highly invasive eye surgery.

Re:Good? (1)

knappe duivel (914316) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451819)

Don't worry about the cost: Dr. Nick Riviera will do it for 29,95.

Re:Good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451939)

I think this is pretty similar to IOLVIP implants available in the UK. Similar risks to surgery for cataracts, and about £6k per eye last time I looked.

Re:Good? (1)

uberjack (1311219) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452519)

This sounds pretty good, especially since I was diagnosed with MD and told by my doctor that I "have eyes of a 60-year old" (I'm 32).

Re:Good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27454165)

Might not be so bad. I was operated on twice for MD (in my 30's and 40's) but it's been OK for the last 10 years.

One step closer to the bionic man (1)

fructose (948996) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451225)

One of these days we'll actually be able to make a true bionic man, a la Steve Austin. With prosthetic arms that you can control with your brain, using yeast to get energy from your blood, and ocular implants, we're just about all there. It just came in over budget and behind schedule. (Not that I'm surprised.)

Re:One step closer to the bionic man (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451475)

yeast to get energy from your blood? you mean the implants will be powered by BEER?!???

sweet. that gives a whole new meaning to the term "beer-goggles".

Re:One step closer to the bionic man (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452329)

Hopefully THAT yeast is not infectious...

But, imagine if the lenses empower the Geriatrics to become new Spy Kids on the blocks... Would Jerry want them? Would Uncle Sam or Uncle Same want them? Would the discrimination against seniors driving lose focus or become unclear a case?

Go boys! (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451227)

Having had close family members suffer from loss of vision, this is great news.

Whilst all illness is distressing, loss of or diminished vision is very tough to bear or watch.

I'm glad that 'science', which is so decried these days, is also being seen (sorry) to deliver.

Re:Go boys! (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 5 years ago | (#27459719)

Whilst all illness is distressing, loss of or diminished vision is very tough to bear or watch.

In Soviet Slashdot, bad jokes write themselves!

The downside... (1)

MaxwellEdison (1368785) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451243)

The downside is the technology costs 6M USD/man. Yes gentlemen, we have the technology...now which one of you is willing to co-sign this loan with me?

Re:The downside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451437)

It would be cheaper to make a Six Million Peso Man ala Robot Chicken. Google says that's under one half million.

A cellphone camera for your eye (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451275)

Forget 20-20 vision, now you can have 160 x 120.

Re:A cellphone camera for your eye (3, Funny)

bFusion (1433853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451289)

I'd hold off: I'm sure we'll have an HD version out in a year or two.

Re:A cellphone camera for your eye (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454295)

Which raises a question that has bothered me for some time now:
What (approximately) is the resolution of the eye?

Re:A cellphone camera for your eye (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455183)

Approximately .6 to .7 arcminute per linepair in lighting of at least .1 Lambert.

Re:A cellphone camera for your eye (1)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27457805)

Even with monochrome, that would be enough to read text, recognize faces, walk down a pavement, take public transport, read timetables and do shopping without any of these requiring assistance.

Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (0)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451279)

Isn't macular degeneration just a normal part of the aging process?

Anyway, I have an idea...rather than sticking telescopes into the eyes...we take the lenses from the telescope, and make them really large and flat, and put them in front of the face, maybe with a wire or plastic holder. That way, you won't have to have surgery to get the advantages!

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451415)

That is actually true, why couldn't we do some sort of light pipe externally to focus on the peripheral part of the retina, magnified and all. Maybe the glasses would look strange, but wouldn't you get the same effect of magnifying what you are looking at?

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (2, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451435)

Isn't macular degeneration just a normal part of the aging process?

The wiki page seems to indicate that there's a genetic component, so I don't think it is "normal" meaning everyone will get it.

And just to be clear, you're not implying that if everyone is going to be getting it eventually, that's somehow a reason not to try to cure it, are you? I don't care how "normal" it is, I wouldn't want to go blind, just as I don't want to get "normal" osteoporosis, hair loss, and loss of mental accuity etc.

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451453)

Not everyone with macular degeneration is old. My daughter had to have laser surgery when she was 5 to stop pooling of blood behind her retina. That suregery basically took out the center of her vision in that eye.

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (4, Informative)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451559)

"Isn't macular degeneration just a normal part of the aging process?"

It is more common amongst the elderly; I don't know that this makes it "normal". What's the difference? If nature says you should stop seeing at 50, you should stop seeing?

This could also be applicable to any number of macular dystrophies that affect people at younger ages; the point is it reduces the importance of the macula and lets the user get the most out of the peripheral vision, which usually isn't impacted (at least not to the same degree).

"we take the lenses from the telescope, and make them really large and flat, and put them in front of the face, maybe with a wire or plastic holder"

Glasses don't help with macular degeneration. The lenses in glasses can't do what this can do. If you're gong to be condescending, you might want to get your facts straight first.

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451583)

we take the lenses from the telescope, and make them really large and flat, and put them in front of the face, maybe with a wire or plastic holder

Nice try, but part of the point of this is to re-aim the light to hit a non-damaged part of the retina after it goes through the lens of the eye.

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (5, Informative)

bargainsale (1038112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452161)

Grandparent was apparently just being sarcastic, but the idea is actually not stupid; you can indeed get telescopic "low visual aids", though there's no way physically of making them flat (hey, telecope!) and they tend to be impractical especially for the older age group who are much the most commonly affected. They tend to be more useful for younger people with retinal diseases not related to age.

The device described in the article is not in fact a new breakthrough concept; there are a number of similar devices out there already. Some just go for magnification; some try to divert light away from damaged central retina (macula) to normal peripheral retina. The trouble is that peripheral retina just isn't as sensitive even if it's healthy.

The actual surgery is not actually very difficult for a competent eye surgeon; it's just a variation, really, on the standard modern cataract operation involving an intraocular lens implant.

The clever part (as with a lot of surgery) is trying to decide who would benefit from the operation beforehand. If there's too much damage to the retina this won't help; if there isn't all that much, then the risks of the surgery may outweigh the benefit.
The major reason why this sort of technique has not already become standard practice is because there aren't yet reliable ways of assessing beforehand which patients will benefit.

BTW the cost is steep but a lot less than a course of Lucentis treatment (the best current option for actual treatment, as opposed to rehabilitation). If it helps the patient retain their independence it would probably pay for itself.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about this sort of technology still, and the way reporters just regurgitate the manufacturers publicity handouts and proclaim a new "cure for blindness" causes a lot of grief to vulnerable people by cruelly raising false hopes.
(I'm an ophthalmic surgeon specialising in retinal diseases)

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (5, Informative)

bargainsale (1038112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451703)

No.

It's a specific disease, or rather family of diseases.

It's very common (by their eighties about 1 in 3 people has it) but it's *not* normal ageing.

Unfortunately many people, especially older people, do indeed think that losing vision as they grow older is just natural, and don't seek help; even a few years ago they weren't in fact missing out on much as treatment was pretty useless, but there's now a much more effective treatment (Lucentis) for the 10% of people with the most aggressive and damaging variant of the disease (so-called "wet" macular degeneration) and it's heartbreaking when people miss out on it because they don't realise that there's *always* a specific reason if your vision goes bad on you.

(I'm an eye surgeon specialising in this very area, and I spend almost half my work time on this disease every week)

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (2, Informative)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454207)

It is also worth mentioning that this can happen slow enough that you really don't notice unless the blind spot is right in the center of your field of vision. I had a friend that got his first clue when he was looking at 2x4 walls I had framed, as they lay on a slab waiting to be stood. The regular layout made it obvious to him that he had "gaps" in his vision. He had been unaware of them because his brain was compensating. He was tested looking at a grid (all straight lines) and said it had "puckered areas" in it. To his credit, he immediately gave up driving... I'm sure at some point the doctor would have insisted but he did not want to risk injuring someone and he just gave up on his own. This issue has had lots of exposure in the older population, but most people under 50 are unaware of what could be waiting for them. Along with a genetic component, risk factors may include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, high fat diet, sun exposure, and possibly light eye color.

Losing the ability to read or drive is not comprehensible to most of us... this could be great news for millions of people.

Re:Doesn't everyone have macular degeneration? (1)

bargainsale (1038112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456119)

That's very true.

Normal people don't go round always comparing the vision in their two eyes, and unless it happens very quickly, many people don't notice loss of central vision (only) in one eye.

They often come my way (I'm an eye surgeon) because they've just been on a routine visit to their optometrist, or just accidentally happened one day to cover the good eye and noticed a problem with the other one.

I see about twice as many people with the second eye affected by the first time they see a doctor as I do people who've notice a problem with just one eye.

BTW this technique won't enable a person to drive again; as someone rightly has pointed out already, you pay for the benefit to central vision by losing peripheral field, which would almost always be enough to stop you driving legally. But that doesn't mean it can't help a lot in other ways.

From the blurp: (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451315)

Magnifying the image on the eye allows the retinal cells outside the macula enables a patient to recognize details using their peripheral vision.
 
What?

this is great news! (2, Insightful)

KingSatan (1522755) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451401)

what are the bad side effects??? dependency? further degeneration due to dependence on the device? on the other hand i think if it was permanent it would be great. especially if like me one of your eyes are bad and is losing vision. i want to learn more about this device.

Re:this is great news! (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452053)

It doesn't halt the degeneration, it allows individuals implanted with the device to make better use of areas of the retina that have not been affected.

If you have macular degeneration, it might help you; if you have some other problem, it isn't particularly likely to help you.

Tunnel Vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451455)

This is a fixed lens which is said to magnify whatever the viewer is looking at over a large part of the retina. I wonder what kind of field of view one would get by using these. This probably restricts your vision to around 20 or 30 degrees from each eye.

Re:Tunnel Vision (1)

Leafheart (1120885) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451589)

I wonder what kind of field of view one would get by using these.

Whatever it is, it is much bigger than 0. I hope they find a way to make these cheaper, because they trully sounds great.

Not in the right location (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451491)

When I get my bionic eye implants, I don't want them in the usual old boring and inflexible location, I want them on stalks jutting out of my head. Maybe a spare one in back, too....

Re:Not in the right location (1)

angster (657608) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456391)

And on top of your feet?

Re:Not in the right location (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27456625)

Maybe a third eye on my third leg? Can you imagine the vagina-cam possibilities?

RIP SPALDING GRAY (0, Offtopic)

lemur3 (997863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451585)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spalding_Gray [wikipedia.org] Even if you were crazy! You were entertaining!

Before this upgrade (1)

lessthanpi (1333061) | more than 5 years ago | (#27451733)

There's a few upgrades my body needs before a bionic telescoping eye. They are
1. USB port
2. Carbon fiber legs
3. Touch screen interface

Fools April? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451835)

April Fools!

Right?

fuck a 5p6onge (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27451905)

suuden and 3ut I'd rather hear

I'm at high risk for AMD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452103)

Just got my test results back from genetic testing company 23andme.

Turns out I'm at much higher risk for Age-related Macular Degeneration. There was no possible treatment listed so far, so this is great news.

It will be of no damn use . . . (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452535)

. . . if you can't shoot lasers out of it.

But seriously, I emailed the article to my parents; my father's vision is going because of MD.

Grandma T got a bionic eye the other day... (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454473)

Wow, until this moment, I've never given any serious thought to getting my dear old grandma some bionic eyes! At 93, she's still there mentally, but the Macular Degeneration has made her all but completely blind.

What a trip, getting my grandma a bionic eye is now actually on the menu. Cool, the six million dollar grandma!

How much are they thinking the device and the surgery is going to cost?

That would make for quite strange family gossip: Did you hear that Grandma T got a bionic eye implanted the other day?

Silverhawks Stargazer?? (1)

ShadowXOmega (808299) | more than 5 years ago | (#27455063)

No one remember Comdr. Stargazer? With his telescopic eye?

Tunnel vision (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27457317)

Is seems that using a larger surface area of the retina for seeing details in the center of the field of vision leaves less for peripheral vision. In other words, people with an implant like this would become better at reading but worse at driving. Great, just what we need!

Macular Degeneration... (1)

DJGrahamJ (589019) | more than 5 years ago | (#27459783)

I thought this was going to be about the new MacBooks not having Firewire...
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