Artificial Retina Could Restores Sight To Blind Lab Mice

iris 072012

A new retinal prosthetic with built-in computer technology proved successful in restoring vision to blind mice, a new report from researchers at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City shows.

The advanced computer chips embedded in the artificial retinas replicated the information communicated to the brain from the eyes by duplicating the neural impulse codes for sight.

Retinal diseases break down the ganglion cells on the eye's surface that help send visual information back to the brain. A common retinal disease is macular degeneration (AMD), which involves loss of sight in the macula, or center, of the sight field due to retinal damage from old-age.

Previous retinal prostheses merely stimulated the ganglion cells. But the new device actually replicates the information sent by these cells, making the data much more understandable for the brain.

The researchers tested the new device on mice by giving some a prosthetic that stimulates ganglion cells and others a prosthetic that replicates ganglion data sent to the brain. Those with the new prothesis model responded to visual tests nearly as well as mice with fully functioning retinas.

"This is a unique approach that hasn't really been explored before, and we're really very excited about it," study author Sheila Nirenberg said.

"I've actually been working on this for 10 years. And suddenly, after a lot of work, I knew immediately that I could make a prosthetic that would work, by making one that could take in images and process them into a code that the brain can understand."

The research appears in the August 14 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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