For centuries, the phrase "to bring eyesight to the blind" was shorthand for a miracle--something that couldn't be done. But times have changed. With new techniques involving stem cells, gene therapy, and tiny electronics, researchers are getting ready to perform that medical miracle.
A TINY TELESCOPE FOR YOUR EYE
If you think about it, the lens in your eye is nothing more than a mini-telescope that lacks the ability to magnify images. So why not replace it with the real deal? That's a proposition that the optics company VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies wants sufferers of end-stage macular degeneration to consider.
Macular degeneration gradually diminishes vision by damaging the macula, an oval-shaped yellow spot located in the center of the retina. That reduces people's ability to see anything directly in front of them. VisionCare's tiny implantable telescope (only 3.6 millimeters in diameter) replaces the patient's lens and squeezes as much performance as possible out of the few remaining healthy areas of the retina by focusing a wider angle of light and images onto the perimacular cells, rather than the central macula.
Working in conjunction with the cornea, the effect of the telescope is to magnify images in front of the eye roughly 2.2 to 2.7 times their normal size. In a recent clinical trial on patients aged 75 and older, 90 percent of the 219 participants were able to read two lines or more on an eye chart, and 75 percent could read large-print books.