Although it’s rare, common diseases like cancer, glaucoma, and diabetes can sometimes cause someone to lose their eye. As a result, they initially grieve for the loss of one of their senses, while some even experience a psychological effect known as phantom eye syndrome, in which visual hallucinations allow them to “see” colors, lights, or even dots. Moving past these initial reactions, many patients end up with artificial eyes, custom-made to fit into their eye sockets.
In a video that appeared on Science channel’s How It’s Made, we’re shown how artificial eyes are molded like braces to fit into a person’s eye. Besides the somewhat shocking realization that they’re not round (they’re actually curved), it’s interesting to see that artificial eye makers may be considered artists more than anything else. Making artificial eyes requires oil paints to match the patient’s true iris color, slivers of silk threads to mimic real-life veins, and an assortment of other waxes, plasters, and acrylics.
Though people have built their businesses on fashioning artificial eyes for patients, technology seems to be catching up in the prosthetics spectrum. Last November, UK-based Fripp Design and Research collaborated with Manchester Metropolitan University to 3D print eyes at a rate of 150 per hour, and at a cost far less than traditionally made ones. Going even further than that, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College discovered in 2012, the neural underpinnings of retinas in blind mice, which, among humans as well, still contain output cells called ganglion cells. The researchers believe that with the help of this “code,” they can create a device with a mini projector that will tap into these cells and restore vision. Until they do, however, these artificial eyes aren’t a bad look.