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High Hopes for New Eye Technology
From NBC News,
original URL http://www.msnbc.com:80/news/343805.asp?cp1=1
A new eye procedure may allow the Churchey brothers to enjoy a measure
| Approach may help some
By Robert Bazell
Dec. 7 — There’s a remarkable new technology that could someday allow blind
people to enjoy a measure of sight. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University
in Baltimore say the procedure is already showing the first signs of success.
HAROLD AND Carroll Churchey, 72-year-old identical twins who are both legally
blind, are volunteers in a project to develop a remarkable new device that may
actually enable blind people to see again.
“There’s a lot of blind people
in this whole world, a lot of blind people, and through this procedure, if I
can help them, I’m all for it,” Harold Churchey said.
Invented at Johns Hopkins, the device transmits images from a computer chip
attached to the retina at the back of the eye. The idea: Electrical signals
jumpstart dying light-sensing cells in the retina so they work once again.
“We’re very, very confident
that this is something of the near future,” said Dr. Mark Humayan of Hopkins.
The research got a lot of attention
recently when singer Stevie Wonder revealed he had traveled to Hopkins for a
“It is true that if ever it’s
possible for that surgery to be done, I would do it,” Wonder said.
But the doctors did not offer
the singer much hope for now because of the particular nature of his blindness.
“He was born blind. So his situation
is going to be tougher,” Humayan said.
HOPE FOR SOME
But the technology is beginning
to work for people who lose their eyesight slowly over decades from a disintegration
of the retina — people like the Churchey brothers.
“I thought this is the beginning
of something good that’s going to happen sometime down in the future,” said
Now the brothers rely on their
wives and on reading aides like talking computers to cope. But as part of the
experiment they traveled from their homes in Western Maryland to Johns Hopkins
to have prototype devices hooked up to their eyes for short periods. They managed
to see patterns of light once again, giving hope for even greater success ahead.
“I can’t wait till I can see
my wife, and my son and my grandson,” said Harold Churchey, crying.
The doctors say attempts to
fully restore vision could begin within three years.
Date last modified December 09, 1999