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Man-Made Diamonds New Medical Marvel

09/2/2012 07:29:11

FROM ANCIENT health rituals to modern day cancer treatments, implants and x-rays, the extraordinary properties of diamonds have been exploited for thousands of years. Modern day science is taking us to the next step.

The creation of synthetic diamonds has been one of the largest benefits to science in the past 50 years. Modern-day synthetic diamonds take only five days to create compared to nature's 3 billion years, but provide boundless scientific opportunities. Now it appears to be a key ingredient in Australia's $50 million quest to develop a bionic eye.

Diamonds durability and low rejection rate have allowed for many successful heart valves and replacement joints, but they have never been used to stimulate the nerves. Professor Prawer, inaugural head of the Melbourne Materials Institute at Melbourne University, said "We have discovered a form of diamond that we can make which is bio-compatible and very good as a stimulating electrode, which means we can put an electrical signal onto it that then causes the neurons to fire and get a response."

This "uniquely Australian approach" has inspired the researchers behind Bionic Vision Australia to begin pre-clinical trials with the hope to have the first human transplant next year at the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. This will be a part of the Australian Government's 2009 commitment to provide $50 million over four years into the development of the bionic eye.

The microscopic diamonds will also be used to encase the five-millimetre-square microchip which is to be implanted into the retina to act as the eye's internal engine.

Not only does the discovery of diamonds used for nerve stimulation provide hope to the blind, but it also suggests future research into the treatment of conditions such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

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