Bionic eye implant is helping Allen Zderad, a 68 year old Minnesota man, see his wife for the first time in 10 years. Zderad even saw his grandchildren for the very first time. The bionic eye implant took place at Mayo Clinic and surgeon Dr. Raymond Iezzy Jr. performed the surgery. The surgery lasted about three hours and Zderad recovered quickly seeing with the bionic eye in two weeks.
Dr. Iezzy happened to find Zderad’s case as he was researching “Second Sight Argus II,” a retinal prosthesis system. Iezzy felt that Zderad was a perfect match for this type of bionic eye implant. Zderad is the 15th person to receive the “Second Sight Argus II”. The technology reportedly cost an estimated $300 to $500 million to develop and took 25 years to develop.
The surgery consisted of implanting 60 electrodes directly into Zderad’s eye. Zderad wears a pair of glasses, like a pair of sunglasses, that have a camera in it, and it runs on a camera pack that sends information to the electrodes implanted in his retina. The optic nerve receives signals directly through this process, which replaces the damaged retinal cells. This bionic eye is not a replacement for the eyeball, and works with interacting with the eye. Zderad is able to see in black and white, and only shapes and forms, not details. Zderad does not care that his sight is “limited” by the bionic eye implant because for the first time in a decade he is able to see his wife.
Zderad has a degenerative genetic eye disease (retinitis pigmentosa) that affects the part of the retina that translates light into sight. Zderad’s grandson, 13-year-old Caleb, has the same degenerative eye disease. Zderad stated that his grandson should not define himself by his limitations but by his God-given ability. Caleb is given hope and encouragement for his condition because his grandfather is able to show him what is possible with a new bionic eye, which has given him a new lease on life.
Zderad found the disease to be a slow progression until it finally took away his sight. He had to rely on a cane and his wife to get around. He involuntarily had to quit his career.
Zderad had to learn to make adjustments to his lifestyle and found he was able to continue woodworking through his sense of touch and spatial awareness. However, with the help of his new bionic eye, Zderad is now able to distinguish the outlines of objects and people, and could even make out his reflection in a window.
Dr. Iezzi is hopeful the technology can be expanded to patients who have lost the use of their eyes, such as people with advanced glaucoma or diabetes or wounded soldiers. Iezzi stated that he would like to be able to increase the number of points of stimulation (Zderad has 60 points) to several hundred, extending the technology so that people could read and distinguish faces. Iezzy is preparing to implant the bionic eye into a second patient.
While Dr. Iezzi is busy improving the technology for the bionic eye, Zderad is enjoying his new-found freedom and independence. The man, who for 10 years could not see his wife, is able to see her for the first time because of the implant of a bionic eye.
By Michele Enli