I’m (Dave) very much a realist when it comes to my sight and live each day as best I can using the limited sight that I have. I’m regularly asked if there is any treatment or operations that I could have to improve or restore my sight and my simple answer to these questions is ‘No, not really’.
However, I have spoken to my consultant at Moorfields about the research in to my condition (Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)) and have had discussions about retina implants and in particular the Argus II ‘bionic eye’ developed by American company Second Sight Medical Products, as this is the most advanced treatment currently available for RP in particular.
“Surgeons at Manchester and Moorfields Eye Hospital made history by delivering the world’s first trial of the Argus II Bionic Eye implants in RP. Specialists at both Hospitals initially supported early studies, which demonstrated that the Argus II restores a degree of visual function to patients who have suffered complete blindness due to the condition.” (https://www.england.nhs.uk/2016/12/bionic-eye-surgery/)
Currently my small amount of vision is probably better than what I would get from the Argus II and I don’t have to wear camera glasses or charge batteries, etc. so this treatment isn’t on my radar just yet. However, I do believe that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel (I couldn’t help myself with this pun) either via a bionic eye or with stem cell treatments.
A story broke recently that pricked my interest about a bionic eye that had been printed using a 3D printer. I read an article on the Daily Mail website that covered the story quite well…
“Scientists have taken another important step towards building the world's first bionic eye, which could give millions of blind people the chance to see again.
In a world first, a team of researchers have built a three-dimensional artificial 'eyeball' capable of detecting changes in light levels.
The bionic eye, which mimics the function of the retina in order to restore sight, works in tandem with an implant to convert the images it sees into electrical impulses for the retinal cells, which carry image signals back to the brain.
By using 3D printing, scientists were able to produce the prototype much faster than previous efforts – sparking hope this could be a viable commercial solution in the future. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6109589/One-step-closer-creating-worlds-bionic-EYE-Scientists-3D-print-prototype-eyeball.html).”
It is the 3D printing that took my interest in particular and the ability to print light detecting electrodes on a curve. I remember attending an exhibition in London 6 or 7 years ago that showcased 3D printing and what you could do using this new technology. Items ranged from candle stick holders and small ornaments to remote control cars through to some pretty cool stuff like personalised printed electric guitars and drum kits. Back then they were talking about 3D printing being available in the home in 10 – 20 years with the future being that you’ll be able to download a template and print your own parts – circuit boards for washing machines for example. I certainly didn’t think back then that this technology, particularly in such a short time period, would be printing a bionic eye or could be the answer to restoring my sight!
As I mentioned at the beginning, I am a realist and am not expecting my vision to be restored before I die, however, I am excited by this kind of developments as it demonstrates that work is being done and there could be hope, if not for me, for people in the future.
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Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.