Writer Embraces Technology To Save Sight

Programmer and science fiction writer Daniel Keys Moran lost sight in one eye several years ago. Though he's feared losing sight in the other eye ever since, new technology has him cheering.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: That's commentator Daniel Keys Moran, computer programmer and science fiction writer.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.