Hundreds of blind people got a bionic implant to restore their sight. Now they are out of support

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An acquaintance has a Blackberry. He bought it in 2015 (although the model was from the end of 2013) and, although it does not have WhatsApp or any of the most common apps, he has been using it for years to make calls, manage mail and use it as a 4G modem. That is enough for him and she is fond of him. The biggest problem has been the batteries, but since they are removable, she has been making a small reserve in case something happens. And it happened: on January 4 the company stopped supporting its smartphones.

As is reasonable, during the days before the “big blackout” I didn’t really know what to do. Would the clunker still work, or would it turn into a pretty paperweight? The first thing happened. At least for the first few days after January 4, his phone worked perfectly. He knew that at any moment it could stop working and that if he had any technical problems, he would surely lose it, but the device was still alive. It was in those days, seeing his doubts and uncertainties, that I thought what would have happened if he had the BlackBerry implanted in his head.

Neural technology…with an expiration date

Think about it for a moment: neural implants are living their “golden age”. Despite the controversy, there are more and more devices that interact with the nervous system and, although many (such as stimulators used to reduce tremors in Parkinson’s patients or cochlear implants) are well established, the vast majority are in full swing. developing. I have remembered this reflection when I met this IEEE Spectrum report: It’s not that it’s a remote possibility, it’s that there are at least 350 people in the world with bionic eyes from a company that has gone bankrupt and has left them without support or maintenance.

The ghost of Gelsinger and the rush of the biotech race: the CRISPR revolution will have to be slower than expected

The company in question is Second Sight and its history is a very interesting warning about the limits of the development model that prevails in the world of technology when we talk about human health. In the end, as Eliza Stricklandmark points outNot only has the company’s bankruptcy left dozens of people without necessary upgrades to their bionic eyes; it has sent them into a world where “the technology that transformed their lives is just another obsolete gadget.” Any minor problem can cause them to lose the sight they had regained, yes; But what’s more, having one of these inactive systems in the eye can “cause medical complications or interfere with procedures such as MRIs, and could be painful or expensive to remove.”

The problem is that Second Sight, its opacity and the string of dubious ethical actions It is not an isolated case. The most notorious has undoubtedly been that of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes, but recent years have been full of promising companies capable of raising the necessary funds to launch very promising medical devices that, shortly after, fall into oblivion. It is not uncommon: the authorization processes for this type of project are so long and costly that very few manage to be completed successfully.

That is why we have to ask ourselves what happens to all the “collateral damage” that the development of biotechnologies has left, is leaving and will leave behind. It doesn’t matter if we talk about bionic eyes, genetic engineering or diagnostic tests that are never done. Those “collateral damage” are people, they are lives that remain in an almost inconceivable uncertainty; when not in serious danger. We are on the verge of an unprecedented biotechnological revolution and, as happened with the case of Jesse Gelsinger, in these things we risk its evolution.

An acquaintance has a Blackberry. He bought it in 2015 (although the model was from the end of 2013) and,…

An acquaintance has a Blackberry. He bought it in 2015 (although the model was from the end of 2013) and,…

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