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CNN Today

Bionic Eye Gives Blind Man Partial Vision

Aired January 17, 2000 - 4:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Researchers say the first practical bionic eye is giving a blind man and the world a first glimpse of artificial site.

CNN's Jennifer Wolf has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERRY, RECEIVER OF BIONIC EYE IMPLANT : Right now, I should be about 5 feet from the wall.

JENNIFER WOLF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jerry is blind, but he's one step closer to regaining some of his lost vision. Jerry, who only wants to be known by his first name, is part of an experiment using an artificial eye.

BILL DOBELLE, DOBELLE INSTITUTE: By stimulating the visual part of the brain, we believe that we can provide vision for virtually all blind patients, regardless of the underlying cause.

WOLF: Jerry lost his vision at the age of 36. He's 62 now and has worked with the Dobelle Institute, a medical device company in New York, since 1978 when he received a brain implant. That implant is connected to a tiny pinhole camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the laser pointer that allows the experimental tube to know what Jerry is looking at.

WOLF: On the other lens, an ultrasonic range finder. It communicates with the pinhole camera to help Jerry perceive specs of light and dark.

DOBELLE: By stimulating arrays of electrodes, a simple pattern -- it looks like a time and temperature sign at a bank -- or by stimulating larger numbers of electrodes, you can build up images, like a sports stadium scoreboard.

WOLF: Superimposed over the camera's picture is a white box that represents Jerry's field of vision. The white and dark spots allow him to perceive items, but Jerry's depth perception is very limited.

JERRY: Now I passed him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you haven't. JERRY: Now I got the blind, and back to the blind, a little break, and the mannequin, right here.

WOLF: Dobelle's research encompasses one person, not enough yet to convince the medical community. The National Institutes of Health wants additional details on the institute's research. The company plans to make the device available outside the United States this year. There is no indication when it would be available in the United States.

Jennifer Wolf, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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