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World first bionic eye implant
Past student, Dr Penny Allen (Fr'80), led the surgical team that implanted the world's first bionic eye prototype, which was announced by Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) on Thursday 30 August.
A government-funded science consortium, BVA said it had surgically installed an "early prototype" robotic eye in a woman with hereditary sight loss caused by degenerative retinitis pigmentosa.
The early prototype consists of a retinal implant with 24 electrodes which send electrical impulses to stimulate the eye's nerve cells.
The implant was positioned behind the retina during surgery at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in May, which was led by Dr Allen, a specialist surgeon at the Centre for Eye Research Australia.
Scientists have described the procedure as a major breakthrough for the visually impaired.
Dr Allen told ABC Radio that researchers will be relying on feedback from the patient to improve the prototype before more implants take place.
"We think that the patients will need to learn to use them," she said.
"It's going to be sort of pixellated vision, for want of a better term, and we think it's going to be black and white."
Dr Allen is a medical retina and vitreoretinal surgeon on staff at The Alfred Hospital and an ophthalmologist in the medical and vitreoretinal unit at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH).
She completed a vitreoretinal fellowship at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London from 1995 to 1996, after sub -specialising in medical retinal surgery from 1994 to 1995.
She has been an associate at the Centre for Eye Research Australia since 1997.