First ever bionic eye implanted into a Reed City native

For the first time in the United States, a man has regained the ability to see because after having a bionic eye implanted.

The Reed City native suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa, an hereditary eye disease that causes severe vision impairment.

Currently, the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center is on the only location in the country performing this surgery. Officials said it’s different than any other optical surgery because of its complexity.

Naheed Khan, an electrophysiologist, said the the surgeons had to be very precise.

“You’re trying to hold it down using the tac, according to our surgeons, which they have not done before,” she said. “Even the senior surgeons have never used a tac before. That’s what they tell us, that it’s a little bit more complex than before because you have to do theses measurements. It has to be very accurate so the array can go sit where it should.”

Khan said patients will be able to see enough to make out outlines of people and objects, but not specific characteristics.

Kari Branham is the genetic counselor at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center. Ideally, she said the bionic eye will help individuals with daily tasks, like getting around their own home.

“Some people may say, ‘I’d like to see the faces of my grandchildren.’ Well, they’re not going to be able to make out the details of the faces,” she said. “What they may be able to do is understand that someone is standing in front of them, and make out the outline. ”

In addition, there are some requirements for the surgery. Patients must have had vision at some point in their lives, and must be suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa.

In order for the bionic eye to operate, patients must also wear specialized sunglasses with a video camera.Aside from the surgically attached eye, she says there is equipment that surrounds and supports the eye… including glasses and a camera.

“The video camera captures the image and sends the image to a computer processing unit that the patient wears,” she said. “Images are processed and sent back to the sunglasses where there is a wireless antenna on the outside of the sunglasses that, then, communicates with the internal component.”

Branham said images detected by the camera use neural cell layers of the retina. The image is then transmitted to the brain.