Researchers at Stanford have created a solar-powered retinal implant capable of transmitting visual signals to the brains of rats. A Medical Daily story offers more details about the study (subscription required), which appears today in Nature Communications:
To address [the] shortcomings of bionic implants, [Daniel Palanker, PhD, an associate professor ophthalmology at Stanford, and his colleagues developed a solar-powered microchip that could be inserted into the sub-retinal layers of the eye.
This device was placed adjacent to the neurons that send visual information to the brain, which should stimulate a more "natural" pattern of neural activity. Their retinal prosthetic is wireless, so its special set of video eyeglasses beams images directly into the microchip.
In this study, Palanker's team from the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory placed these second-generation implants into the retinas of rats with or without macular degeneration. The researchers found that the new bionic retinas could transmit images into the minds of rats, which was observed by measuring brain activity in the visual centers of the rodents' brains.
Brain activity returned to normal in rats with eye disease that were given these retinal implants.
Previously: Australian scientists implant early prototype of a “bionic eye” into a patient, Stanford-developed retinal prosthesis uses near-infrared light to transmit images and Developing a prosthetic eye to treat blindness