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Centre de Sante de Paquetville
Hope for those who cannot see
Date : - 08/05/2012
I read the report "Eye implants restore vision to blind patients" (May 5) with great interest. The Germans and the Americans have done it successfully. Now it is the turn of the British.

I wonder if Singapore would ever carry out the same clinical trials that I firmly believe would benefit those who need it.

In Singapore, many successful cochlear implants (an electronic device surgically implanted behind the ear to treat hearing loss) have been done for many years now.

There is also a hearing and cochlear implant centre at the Singapore General Hospital where professional advice and treatment can be sought. There are about 4,500 children under 19 years of age suffering from permanent hearing loss here.

Perhaps Singapore should also consider electronic eye implants. I am sure such implants would be beneficial, especially for those who have had their photoreceptor cells damaged, as in retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

According to the Retinitis Pigmentosa Society Singapore, it is estimated that there are more than 400 Singaporeans with this retinal disorder. Hence, setting up a similar centre for vision and retinal implants, like the hearing and cochlear implant centre, would be a good first step.

Since the beginning of the millennium, a number of research institutions, hospitals and private companies, especially those in Germany and the United States, have made great strides in the development of electronic and optoelectronic retinal implant technology for the visually-impaired.

I am confident the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University have their own expertise in the biomedical implant technology needed to create our own electronic eye implant.

Also known as a retinal prosthesis or bionic eye, there are two types currently in clinical trials: The epiretinal implant, which is done on the retina, and the subretinal implant, which is done behind the retina.

Of course, there will be advantages and disadvantages to each. For instance, the main disadvantage of the epiretinal implant is the need to carry a cumbersome external apparatus, while the subretinal implant depends on sufficient incidental light to work.

I look forward to the day when Singaporeans whose visions are impaired because of retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration can realise their dreams of being able to see their loved ones again.
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