Relief may be in sight for the more than one million Americans who suffer from retinal degeneration disease -- MARC the bionic eye.
Today, people who lose their vision due to inherited disease, retinitis pigmentosa, or age-related macular degeneration, have audible devices to help them get around.
(SOUND: Street-crossing signal "seven seconds to cross meadow street, six, five, four ...")
Even better would be an artificial retina to take the place of an eye's damaged light-sensing cells -- called rods and cones. In fact, six people are now walking around with bionic eyes, called the multiple-unit artificial retina chipset or MARC.
MARC has three wireless components -- a microchip of electrodes surgically implanted in the retina, a mini video camera facing forward, and a processor-transmitter to relay pictures from the camera to the chip in the back of the eye. At the University of Southern California, MARC'S co-inventor, Dr. Mark Humayun explains:
Humayun: "The idea is to use this electronic device to bypass the damaged area and provide that information from the camera to the otherwise blind patient's brain."
(SOUND: street/traffic noise)
Not a moment too soon. Clinical trials begin later this year with the latest generation of MARC, the bionic eye. The new version features even more pixels for a better picture, kind of like that new digital camera you've been eying. I'm Eric Phillips.
"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at nsf.gov.