Prosthetic Retina Could Restore Sight to Blind Patients

A prosthetic retina made of thin silicone

A new type of prosthetic retina could restore vision to patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in the developed world, according to a press release from University of Strathclyde. The device is wireless and less bulky than existing devices. Current prosthetic devices require complicated surgery, and the new device could result in much simpler procedures, according to the press release.

The device is being developed by researchers at the University of Strathclyde and Stanford University. A study on the implant was recently published in the journal Nature Photonics.

The retina implant is made of thin silicone. It converts pulsed near infrared light into electrical current that stimulates the retina and elicits visual perception. (Conventional prosthetic retinas are powered by coils.) Video goggles deliver energy and images directly to the eye.

Part of the inspiration for the device was the cochlear implants, devices for people with hearing loss. The retina implant is similar to these implants, but has a camera instead of a microphone and is designed to deal with millions of light-sensitive nerve cells.

AMD affects one in 500 patients aged between 55 and 64, and one in eight aged over 85, according to the press release from University of Strathclyde. As the aging population increases, AMD is expected to continue to grow.

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