Please tell us about yourself
A HEIDELBERG Heights doctor is helping lead Australia’s first attempt at developing a bionic eye.
Dr Mohit Shivdasani is part of a team of Bionic Institute researchers who have spent the past two years developing an implant to be placed behind a person’s eye to improve vision.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career? What did you study?
Dr Mohit Shivdasani completed his Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering from University of Mumbai and arrived in Australia from India to pursue a Master’s degree in Biomedical/Electronics Engineering at La Trobe University, Melbourne. He was subsequently offered a scholarship to undertake a PhD in Auditory Neuroscience, developing implants for the hearing-impaired, following which he took up a postdoctoral Research Fellow position at the Bionics Institute (formerly Bionic Ear Institute) in 2009. Since then, Dr Shivdasani has been part of a multi-disciplinary team whose research is focused on developing a bionic eye for vision restoration in blind humans through a $50M federally funded grant awarded to Bionic Vision Australia. Dr Shivdasani’s own research at the Bionics Institute played a major role in this project since the beginning, and his unique preclinical electrophysiology experiments were instrumental in the design and development of Australia’s first bionic eye prototype which was successfully implanted in three patients in 2012, only 3 years since the development of the device began.
Tell us about your work
Since the $42 million Bionic Vision Australia project started, three people have had the implant surgically inserted. Dr Shivdasani is now working with one of the patients each week to test the implant’s effectiveness.
The device includes a camera, attached to a pair of glasses, which captures the visual scene and transmits radio frequency signals back to the implant.
“We are trying to stimulate remaining tissue to see if we get a response,” Dr Shivdasani said.
He said US researchers had already developed an implant that was inserted in front of the eye, but he said the Australian project hoped to take the technology the next step.
“We are taking baby steps,” he said.
“But we think we can leapfrog the US implant and we hope to have it commercially available in three years.”
What are your future plans?
Based on this unique preclinical and clinical experience with the bionic eye his future goals are to continue basic research to help improve the resolution of devices which will help improve functional outcomes and increase the quality of living for patients.