(03/27/14) - Straight from a 70s television script- a bionic eye may restore
vision for some people who thought they had lost their site forever. For the
first time, surgeons are able to implant a high tech eye that is giving some
patients the precious gift of sight.
Larry and Jerry Hester's love story spans more than four decades. Just after their 10 year anniversary, a genetic disorder known as retinitis pigmentosa robbed Larry of his sight.
"If my sight was ever completely restored, the very first thing I would want to do was to see my wife," Jerry said.
Larry's now closer to that reality. He's a candidate for a new bionic eye at Duke University Hospital.
"We can, for the first time, restore vision that was once considered to be permanently lost," says retinal ophthalmologist, Paul Hahn.
A miniature video camera picks up images that are sent to a micro-processor and wirelessly transmitted to a computer chip in the eye.
Hahn explains, "It stimulates a part of the retina that's still healthy, and provides flashes of light which the patient can interpret as an image."
Patients then learn to see in a new way, "so they're not going to see the way you or I see."
Instead, Larry will see high contrast items of light and dark and identify movement. He may even see his grandchildren for the first time.
"Words really can't express how exciting it is and how thrilling it is," Larry says.
His bride agrees, "it's this joy that's unspeakable."
The bionic eye, called Argus-two, is now being offered in 13 sites around the country. It is only approved for those with retinitis pigmentosa.
In the future, it could help restore other forms of blindness. The gift of sight comes with a price tag of about $145,000.
ABC12 Main Station