A 2004 study found that 29% of all cases of blindness in people aged 29-40 was caused by Retinis Pigmentosa (RP) . RP affects approximately 1 in 4000 people or 1.5 million people worldwide. It begins with the death of the light-sensitive cells of the retina in the peripheral vision, and progresses at varying rates towards the central vision, ultimately leading to profound blindness. There is currently no known effective treatment for RP. For those affected, a bionic eye offers new hope. The technology has been created, proof of principle has been established and a fully-implantable device is progressing very well through pre-clinical testing with human testing possible in 2016 if sufficient funding can be secured.
The bionic eye work is being conducted by a team of researchers in a state of the art laboratory at UNSW, and by leading surgeons from Sydney and Macquarie universities. Pre-clinical testing is progressing extraordinarily well with Phase I testing completed with excellent results from three month implant studies.
The device design is now frozen and the next steps include full-scale chronic implantation in order to complete the Phase II pre-clinical work required ahead of seeking to implant human subjects.