Monday, January 11, 2010

Oh, my eyes!

As you may notice if you squint really, really hard at my photo, I wear glasses. I have since I was a kid, and I'll probably continue to do so for a very long time, since I can't quite stomach the idea of contacts or laser surgery. However, if I do change my mind, I can rest assured that the future of eye care has arrived:

  1. Doctors in the U.K. have succeeded in implanting a stem cell culture into a blind eye,* causing the damaged cornea to grow back. The patient can now see out of both eyes instead of just one, much to his relief, and there's no risk of rejection, because they were his own stem cells. 
  2. Other British doctors have developed a technique for equipping people with high-def vision,** using a standard implanted lens, then fine-tuning the focus.
  3. Laser refractive surgery, a.k.a. LASIK et al., has now improved enough that we can use it to customize vision.*** Need to see in the dark? Read fine print at a thousand paces? Too proud to get bifocals? Done!
Obviously, if I want awesome, futuristic eyes, I need to move to Britain. However, if I become diabetic, I can stay right here in Canada to get my very own pair of contacts that change colour according to my blood sugar levels.**** With nano-particles, natch.

Since over 161 million people have some kind of vision impairment and that number's probably only getting higher, these developments will be a Big Thing—if the costs go down. And even if it doesn't, this technology is going to influence the future. We could adapt eyes to life underwater or in space. We could create super-soldiers which always ends badly. We could humanely blind people as a punishment for, say, being a peeping tom (see: chopping the hands off thieves). We could make contacts that changed colour with drug levels or hormone levels, so that the raves of the future would contain psychedelic eyes.

I should stop speculating. I want these stories now! Think I'll just think of England instead. Mm, England…

** Engadget and Gizmodo
*** io9
**** Institute of Nanotechnology via PopSci via io9

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