A miniature telescope, which can be implanted in the eye, might help the blind see—assuming it passes clinical trials.
Remember how Galileo could see through his telescope, even when he had a degenerative eye disease? Now imagine inserting a miniature telescope directly in the eyeball—that’s exactly how VisionCare Inc. plans on restoring sight for people with eyes so bad, not even glasses and laser surgery help. Right now, the company’s target patients are those with advanced macular degeneration, a progressive disease that can lead to blindness.
The telescope, which is made of glass and is the “size of a pencil eraser,” uses the cornea as a telephoto lens, and then magnifies the images onto the retina. This allows the person to see images as being three times larger than they really are.
Because the patient is outfitted with a telescope in only one eye, he or she must then learn how to block out double vision. This can be difficult for patients, so researchers have suggested methods such as winking or using tape to block out vision in the other eye.
The device seems promising so far: It’s been used in Europe for the last five years. The latest clinical trial involved 206 people — only a few have since requested to have it removed, either “because they didn’t like it” or their device had a manufacturing defect (which has since been fixed). Currently, there’s ongoing clinical trial in the U.S., though the FDA must still approve it before the treatment can be used here.
Image: flickr/ pfostphfilms