If your car battery runs out of juice, the car won't run, but that doesn't mean it's time to scrap the car. Similarly (at least slightly), if your photoreceptors are worn out due to a disease such as retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration, then you might not be able to see, but your eyes still have a lot of functioning parts.
That's the principle behind a new retinal implant developed by team of Stanford-led researchers. Unlike previous devices, which require wires and unwieldy surgeries, the new implant is wireless and needs only a minimally invasive surgery to inject a small, photovoltaic chip inside the eye. The team published their results in Nature Medicine.
That chip capitalizes on the remaining capabilities of existing retinal cells known as bipolar and ganglion cells and produces more refined images than existing devices. The chip responds to signals from special glasses worn by the recipient.
“The performance we’re observing at the moment is very encouraging,” Georges Goetz, a lead author of the paper and graduate student in electrical engineering at Stanford, said in our press release. “Based on our current results, we hope that human recipients of this implant will be able to recognize objects and move about.”
The implant has only been used in animal studies, but a clinical trial is planned next year in France.
“Eventually, we hope this technology will restore vision of 20/120,” co-senior author Daniel Palanker, PhD, told me. “And if it works that well, it will become relevant to patients with age-related macular degeneration.”
Previously: Stanford researchers develop solar powered wireless retinal implant, Factors driving prescription decisions for macular degeneration complex — and costly and Tiny size, big impact: Ultrasound powers miniature medical implant
Photo by Ali T