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Bionic eye could restore sight

Blind volunteers sought to test prototype

Inventors at Newcastle University’s Mechatronic engineering department in Australia are looking for volunteers to test their ‘bionic eye’.

Developed by Mechatronics (a combination of mechanical and electrical engineering) lecturer, Gregg Suaning, as part of his PhD, the device consists of a silicon chip inserted into the eye, which takes on the role of a retina, capturing images through a pair of specially designed glasses.

The bionic peeper has thus far only been tested on animals, but if it is successful with humans it is hoped the eye will replace the sight of those who are visually impaired.

Five profoundly blind volunteers are needed to test the device. The University is currently holding talks with Australia’s Royal Blind Society to find possible candidates.

About the size of a five pence piece, the bionic eye works by simulating nerves. In simple terms the device receives radio signals and then transmits those signals to the nerves to make them function.

"We broadcast data into the body using radio waves," said Suaning. "It's like a radio station that only had a range of 25mm."

Suaning has won a Fresh Science award as part of Australian National Science Week, a prize designed to highlight the inventions of Australian researchers.

If tests are successful it may not be long before similar technology is tested in the UK.

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