MELBOURNE, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers on Thursday unveiled a device for the eye that can save the sight of those most likely to develop blindness.
The small implantable electric device, invented by the Bionics Institute and Centre for Eye Research Australia in Melbourne, sits unnoticed at the back of the eye and provides low-level electric stimulation to trigger the release of chemicals that prevent retinal cells from dying.
The Minimally Invasive Retinal-degeneration Arrestor device has undergone successful animal trials and been recognized as one of Australia's most important research projects.
Robert Klupacs, chief scientist at Bionic Vision Australia, said that the device could be more useful than the bionic eye due to its capacity to treat a wider range of devices.
"Once someone has lost their sight there is only so much you can give back with the bionic eye. If they don't have to lose their sight, they can have a really good life," Klupacs told Australian media on Thursday.
"This will be one of the most amazing things to come out of Australia if it comes off."
David Nayagam, one of many researchers to work on the project, said that trials had proved the device was effective in slowing the effects of Retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary degenerative condition that causes blindness.
He said that the team was optimistic that it would also be useful for macula degeneration and glaucoma with preclinical trials to begin in 12 to 18 months.
"If we can get five or 10 years of extra sight, that might be enough for the patient to see their kids grow up or to finish their working career," Nayagam said.
"That's the grand hope, but the work is just beginning.
"We need to prove it is safe and efficacious before we can start the clinical trials.
"It's smaller, simpler, less invasive and delivers less current than the bionic eye. We're very hopeful we shouldn't run into any obstacles."