Artificial retina gives sight to blind mice
  • Thu, 08/16/2012 - 9:21am

Last month, I told you about an experimental injection that could help restore sight to the blind; now, two researchers from Weil Cornell Medical College in New York have developed an artificial retina that could help blind patients regain sight.

The retina borders the back of the eye, detects light and produces impulses that carry visual information from the optic nerve to the brain, according to MedicineNet.

Researchers Sheila Nirenberg and Chethan Pandarinath created the retina that has allowed blind mice to perceive facial characteristics and keep track of moving images, according to a report published August 13 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The retina employs the same neuronal code that the body’s retina cells use to relay visual information to the brain, while also stimulating the activity of specialized light-detecting cells called rods and cones.

“It’s an exciting time,” Nirenberg, lead author and professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and the Institute for Computational Biomedicine, told the press. “We can make blind mouse retinas see, and we’re moving as fast as we can to do the same in humans.”

Nirenberg believes that in the near future blind patients could wear a visor––like what Geordi La Forge wore in Star Trek––that contains a light-detecting camera and a chip that turns that light into a code the brain can recognize, allowing the patient to see.

Until now, artificial retinas worked to stimulate the patient’s remaining cells with an electrical current, but this has only allowed blind patients to detect patches of light. The researchers hope that this new development will help the 25 million people suffering from blindness due to retinal disease.

The researchers have filed a patent on the artificial retina and look to test the safety and efficacy of the artificial retina in human trials as soon as possible.

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