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Technology to shape the future

Imagine being able to restore sight to the blind. Senior Research Fellow Dr Chi Luu is one of the scientists behind the iconic bionic eye project which aims to do just that.image-tools (8)

As a partner in Bionic Vision Australia (BVA), CERA leads the surgical and clinical research programs involved in the bionic eye’s development.

“The bionic vision technology aims to restore the sense of vision to people living with blindness and low vision,” Dr Luu said.

“Initially, the technology will target patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In the future, we hope the technology will help patients with other conditions too,” he said.

Dr Luu’s CV is impressive. A trained orthoptist with a PhD in vision neuroscience, he went on to complete a post-doctoral research fellowship in psychology and a two-year graduate diploma in epidemiology and statistics at the University of Melbourne.

“Day to day my role varies significantly. I might see patients, conduct an experiment, take retinal images, conduct electrophysiology recording, perform surgery, or test the retina’s response to stimulation,” he said.

Through the surgical program, researchers aim to develop new surgical procedures and equipment for implantation of the device and to lead the first patient tests.

“The team provides surgical support for the safety and efficacy studies. We also carry out clinical assessments of eye health following implantation in animal models and cadavers.”

Dr Luu said the clinical program will become more active in coming months as the team work towards performing the first human implant in 2013.

“The clinical team is working to establish clinical tests for patient selection and assess and monitor the eye health, visual performance and vision-related quality of life at pre- and post-implantation.”

“One of our key roles is to develop a database of patients with various degrees and durations of RP, AMD other retinal degenerations. These patients are being recruited to participate in a series of visual function studies, the results of which will help us to develop a selection protocol for the first retinal implant patient tests. “

“The clinical team is also developing and validating tests for assessing visual function, daily living tasks and vision-related quality of life in patients.”

For more information visit www.bionicvision.org.au.