Ottawa company iBIONICS developing 'diamond' eye to restore vision to blind

iBionics
Ross Cheriton, PhD student at the University of Ottawa, is seen with the iBIONICS demo setup at the SUNLAB.

A diamond implant could soon return sight to the blind, thanks to the innovation of an Ottawa company.

iBIONICS, which is headquartered in Ottawa and also has a Gatineau facility, is working on the creation of a small retinal implant, encased in diamond.

This “diamond eye” uses electrical pulses to communicate images from a video camera to the eye. The idea is that the camera, attached to a pair of glasses, will capture images then send the information via laser beam through the eye to the back of the implant, which will then get converted into electrical signals, stimulating the retina.

"It's definitely game changing," said iBIONICS CEO Suzanne Grant. “We're aiming for people to be able to actually recognize faces of their loved ones, enjoy a sunset, watch YouTube or Netflix, just a completely different level of sight."

Grant explained most of the credit for the implant should go to chief technology officer Steven Prawer, who was inspired by Cochlear, an Australian company that helped deaf people to hear using implants by artificially stimulating the nerves in the ear. Prawer wondered if the something similar could be used in the eye to help people see.

Having a diamond casing for the implant helps with durability and protects the delicate electronics.

"Steven understood the key to getting high acuity or resolution was going to be to have very tiny electrodes very close together, and lots of them, said Grant.”In a 4x4 millimeter chip, we have 256 electrodes, and that gives us a lot of options for how we send those pulses of electricity."

– By Jesse Cnockaert. This story originally appeared in Metro News.

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