A bionic device developed by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, may be able to restore sight to blind people through a brain implant. In the testing phase, the technology is in preparation to be implanted for the first time in humans and may also help in cases of paralysis.
The device, called the Gennaris bionic vision system (“Gennaris Bionic Vision System”, in free translation), has been in development for 10 years and works through a device similar to a headset, which communicates with microelectrodes implanted in the brain. By ignoring damaged optic nerves, the system will allow information signals to be transmitted from the retina directly to brain receptors.
The external apparatus of the Gennaris system, composed of technologies similar to that of a cell phone, includes a camera and a wireless transmitter. A processor unit in the device’s body handles data processing, while the internal microelectrode system transmits it to the brain.
According to one of the project’s developers, Professor Arthur Lowery, the technology will be able to create visual patterns with up to 172 points of light, which will help users to better locate themselves in different environments.
With the possible success of the brain implant for bionic vision, the researchers hope to adapt the technology to help treat severe neurological problems, such as paralysis in certain limbs and even complete or partial loss of movement.
Although human testing has yet to be scheduled, studies in sheep in the last month of July have shown promising results. The Gennaris System was implanted in the guinea pigs brain using a pneumatic sensor and did not present any health problems or adversities even after 2,700 hours of stimulation.