HK doctor offers six-year-old boy ‘electronic eyes’

BIONIC BOY::The final goal is to give the boy ‘bionic eyes’ linked directly to the brain, which could partially restore his sight, a treatment in development


Fri, Sep 06, 2013 - Page 6

A six-year-old Chinese boy who had his eyes gouged out by a woman believed to be his aunt may one day see again after a Hong Kong hospital offered him “electronic eyes.”

Hong Kong-based eye expert Dennis Lam (林順潮) said his team would provide the treatment for free to Guo Bin (郭斌) — known as Bin-Bin — who was found covered in blood near his home in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi last month after the horrific attack.

Future technology could restore up to 40 percent of the boy’s lost vision, Lam told reporters.

“When I heard about it. I was really angry, very upset. I was asking myself if I can help,” Lam said. “Being an eye doctor, our greatest sort of encouragement is when the patients see again.”

Lam said that he is still waiting for consent from the child’s parents to bring him to the eye hospital in Shenzhen in southern China, where he can be given a pair of false eyes as soon as next week. A camera would process images and relay a signal to a grid of electrodes attached to the boy’s tongue, eventually teaching the brain to “see” again.

The technology is already being used in Japan and Europe, he added.

The final goal is to give the boy “bionic eyes” linked directly to the brain which would help him partially regain his sight, Lam said, a treatment which is still being developed.

“In the high end his sight could be 20 to 40 percent when we talk about 10 years down the road. It’s a wild guess. The ultimate goal is to help him to see again,” he said.

The boy’s parents were considering the offer, Hong Kong’s Cable TV said.

The little boy went missing after playing outside and his eyes were found nearby. Authorities have now made his aunt, who committed suicide on Friday, their prime suspect, news agency Xinhua said, quoting local police.

The aunt, who Xinhua named as Zhang Huiying (張會英), killed herself by jumping into a village well.

Police found the boy’s blood on his aunt’s clothes following DNA tests, Xinhua said.

Her younger brother, Zhang Ruihua (張瑞華), denied reports of a family row over caring for the boy’s grandfather.

Everyone had agreed to share the cost, he told the Beijing News.

“There was no dispute,” he said, adding it was hard to accept his own sister was considered a suspect.

Lam’s medical team visited Guo, who is currently being treated in Shanxi, on Saturday.

“He seemed cheerful given that he has gone through so much. He is a very brave boy,” team member Fairooz Manjandavida told the South China Morning Post.

Although initial reports suggested that his corneas were missing, prompting speculation that he had been attacked for organ sales, Chinese authorities have ruled that out, saying the corneas were still attached.

The attack has shocked the nation and has stirred fury on the Internet, with users demanding retribution.

Adding confusion to the situation, a local hospital in Shanxi will provide Guo with artificial eyes, state media reported on Wednesday.

Xinhua cited Jia Yading (賈亞丁), the director of Shanxi Eye Hospital, as saying Guo’s eyelids have healed and the hospital will implant the prosthetic eyes in a month.

“The artificial eyes cannot restore his sight,” Jia said.

No one who could comment on the report was available at the hospital late on Wednesday.