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Science & Technology

Duke To Offer 'Bionic Eye' For Blind Patients

Argus II bionic eye glasses
Second Sight
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Duke University Hospital has become one of only 13 sites in the nation selected to offer bionic eyes for severely blind patients.

A company called Second Sight developed the device, and they chose Duke after a lengthy selection process. The device was approved by the FDA in February.It will only work for people with a certain type of vision impairment, called retinitis pigmentosa, and it won't give people full sight, but it will make them more functional.

Dr. Paul Hahn is spearheading the project for Duke. He says, this bionic eye may look familiar:

"A lot of lay people will compare it to the visor worn by Jordi in Star Trek. And actually the technology is surprisingly similar," he said. "A camera that's connected to a pair of glasses. And that camera picks up a little signal and sends it to a little computer that's worn on the patient's belt. And then that computer sends the signal wirelessly to a device that is surgically implanted inside the eyeball."

Hahn did say that the device won't give people perfect vision. "In contrast to the visor worm by Jordi in Star Trek, this does not restore normal vision to patients," he said. "Rather what it does, is it changes someone's level of vision from near blindness to a little bit better, where they can function independently."

The cost of the bionic eye, with hospital stay and rehab expenses, is expected to be around $200,000.

Second Sight made this video explaining how the eye functions:

http://youtu.be/Bi_HpbFKnSw

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