New Prosthetic Retinas Can Restore Lost Vision

Scientists from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York have built a new type of prosthetic retina that can potentially restore vision to millions blinded by retinal disease.

Scientists from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York have built a new type of prosthetic retina that can potentially restore vision to millions blinded by retinal disease.

Using blind mice as pegs for their study, Neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg and postdoctoral student Chethan Pandarinath have been able to restore lost vision using a special kind of artificial retinas. Innovapedia reports:

Artificial retinas already exist. But they require surgery to implant an array of electrodes deep into the eye. The electrodes stimulate cells that transmit information to the brain, and must be powered by an external battery. They are capable of restoring crude vision, allowing patients to pick up only major contrasts and edges, such as a light object against a dark background.

But Nirenberg’s research, which was presented this week at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, enables still and moving images to be conveyed more cleanly and rapidly than ever before possible. And the method doesn’t require surgery.

In mammals’ eyes, a set of cells in the retina detects light, and then a separate layer of cells, called ganglion cells, relays that information to the brain. Because macular degeneration and other retinal diseases cause the light-detecting cells to die but leave the ganglion cells intact, researchers have been trying for 50 years to decipher their code—the patterns by which the ganglion cells fire—so as to capitalize on the eye’s natural circuitry. Nirenberg has now nailed that, or at least a close approximation. After 10 years of work, she knows the relationship between what we see and how that translates into ganglion-cell firing patterns.

Weill Cornell Medical College

[via Innovapedia]

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