Eduardo Fernandez, director of neuroengineering at the University of Miguel Hernandez, Spain has presented a particularly unique approach to cure blindness. His method uses technology embedded directly in the rear of the brain as opposed to previous techniques which usually involved prosthetic eyes or retinas.
The mechanism uses a modified pair of glasses fitted with a tiny camera. A computer processes the live video feed and turns it into electrical signals which are then wired to a 100-electrode implant in the visual cortex of the brain.
Bernardeta Gómez, 57-year-old Spanish woman, was the first patient to get the implant at the end of 2018, albeit for a short period of six months as the technology is still temporary. Fernandez plans to install implants in further five people in the next couple of years.
The experiment was certainly a risky one. It required brain surgery on an otherwise healthy body—always a risky procedure—to install the implant. And then again to remove it six months later, since the prosthesis isn’t approved for long-term use.
After research on animals and Gomez’s experiment, Fernandez estimates that the current setup could last in the brain for a minimum of two to three years and a maximum of ten. He hopes that minor changes will extend this lifetime to a few decades – a critical prerequisite for a piece of medical hardware that requires invasive brain surgery.
His aim is to return sight to as many as the 36 million blind people in this world as possible.