Operation to install a bionic eye: how it was
How does the bionic eye work? Which patients will be especially useful? We are dealing with the doctor of medical sciences, ophthalmologist, the presenter of the TV channel “Doctor” Hristo Perkilovich Takhchidi.
The first patient to whom Russian doctors transplanted the bionic eye was 59-year-old Grigory Ulyanov from Chelyabinsk. In 1996, he became blind – eyesight fell gradually over a period of sixteen years. The doctors tried to slow down this process, but they could not reverse it.
Gregory had to learn to live in a new way, focusing on hearing and touch. He was able to serve himself on his own – preparing food, washing, even going to the store, but it was definitely impossible to call such a life full.
Christo Perkilovich Takhchidi, director of the center of ophthalmology of the Russian Medical University, explains that Gregory lost his sight due to pigment retinitis. “The peculiarity of this disease lies in the fact that the retinal rod apparatus, the terminal neurons, which transform light into a nerve impulse, are affected,” he says.
It is thanks to photoreceptors – rods and cones – that each of us can determine the shape of the object and its outlines, distinguish colors, distinguish darkness from light. If the photoreceptors are damaged, the person ceases to see even if other parts of the eye function without disturbance – signals about what they see simply cease to flow into the brain.
“There is a degenerative change in the retina, begins with the extreme periphery and gradually goes to the center and so the patient’s spatial vision narrows, turns into a tubular, finally comes the moment when it goes out,” says the doctor. – It is believed that the predisposition to retinitis pigmentosa is inherited. Predominantly affects men, that’s such discrimination on this issue. The occurrence of it – somewhere 1 patient for 4-5 thousand of the population, this means that in our country about 30-40 thousand of such patients should be. ”
The installation of the bionic eye is the only option that science can now offer to patients with retinitis pigmentosa. Previously, a person with this diagnosis was doomed to blindness, since science and medicine could not offer any treatment to them.
Grigory Ulyanov became the first Russian to install the Argus-2 bionic implant. This system consists of several parts: an implant implanted in the retina, as well as an external system – glasses with a built-in video camera. The camera transmits the signal to the video processor (the patient wears it on the belt), and he sends the processed image to the eye-piece, from where the data is transferred to the microchip installed in the retina.
Electrodes of the microchip connect with nerve endings that are suitable for the retina – the implant takes on the functions of the damaged photoreceptors and sends to the brain information about what they see.
Of course, a patient with a bionic eye sees completely differently than people with full vision. Hristo Periklovich explains that this is a completely new vision, not the restoration of that image, but the generation of a new vision. “A person will see the white, black and all the shades passing between them – these are different shades of gray.”
To date, no more than 300 microarrays have been implanted in the retina in the world . The developers of the bionic eye, however, are sure that in the future such technologies will become public.
The operation for the installation of the bionic eye consists of several stages: implant implantation through tiny punctures 4 mm in size, tissue healing and, most importantly, connection of the microchip, checking its operability and adjusting to the characteristics of the patient.
Bionic eye was first included only 2 weeks after the operation. When installing the device, the loss of 6 electrodes is considered the norm, but fortunately, all 60 electrodes present in the microchip were installed as needed.
Of course, there was no instant insight – at first it was necessary to learn to distinguish visual images and adapt to the work of the prosthesis. Grigory Ulyanov was able to begin to distinguish visual images immediately, whereas usually in patients it takes several months.
At first he was allowed to use bionic vision for only a few hours a day, but gradually he began to get used to the installed device and this time increased. For Grigory began a new life, he again for a long time saw his family and for the first time – his grandchildren, who were born after he lost his sight.
“At first I was somewhat wary of this [installation of the bionic eye], but as I deepened into this problematic, it became clear to me that this is a step into the future, into the very space that opens up entirely new prospects in the solution of the struggle issue blindness, blindness, “explains Hristo Tahchidi.