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Writer Embraces Technology To Save Sight


Finally in All Tech Considered, technology that is changing the way we see, literally. It's something in which commentator Daniel Keys Moran takes a personal interest.

DANIEL KEYS MORAN, BYLINE: If you're driving, if you need your eyes open to be safe, keep them open. But if you can, I want you to close your eyes starting now. Seven years ago, I went blind in my right eye. Bleeding under the macula ruined my central vision. The eye went dark, and half a decade passed.

I'm lucky. I can still see with my left eye. I can still read, drive, play basketball. Aside from losing my depth perception, my life hasn't changed. But until recently, I had this fear: what if the other eye goes? For some, it's not a fear. Their world is dark and vision a memory or a dream.

But we live in amazing times. And recently, new research has given me hope. In Israel, the company Bio-Retina is starting tests on a tiny sensor that's implanted directly on the retina and provides black and white vision. Its low resolution today, but it won't stay that way.

At UC Davis, an 89-year-old painter had a small telescope implanted in her eye, and for the first time in seven years is able to read and looks forward to painting again. This one is huge for me. It's here now. And if my eye went dark tomorrow, with this surgery, I could still read and work and support my five children.

And perhaps most promising, long-term, at Cornell University, researchers developed a device with the potential to provide color vision to people with many kinds of blindness. In mice, they decoded the signals the optic nerve uses to communicate with the brain providing a pathway to a genuinely artificial retina. They're a year or more away from human tests, but this is a breakthrough technology. And unbelievably, I have whole days where I don't worry about going completely blind. OK, open your eyes. Millions of people are about to do the same.


SIEGEL: That's commentator Daniel Keys Moran, computer programmer and science fiction writer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.