How It Works: An Implantable Bionic Eye

Microchips restore sight in patients with degenerative vision loss

Retina

Medi-Mation

More than 100,000 Americans have suffered significant vision loss from retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that is the most common cause of childhood blindness. Now a team of German researchers, led by neuroophthalmologist Eberhart Zrenner of the University of Tubingen, has developed a microchip that can restore their sight. Within days of receiving the implant, patients can see geometric patterns and letters. Over time, some have developed the ability to tell a fork from a spoon, identify shades of gray, read words, and even detect emotion on people's faces. Zrenner and his colleagues are recruiting at least 21 more patients to further test the implanted microchip, and they expect the product to be market-ready by next year.