Artificial retina restores rat vision
While the technology to restore sight in blind humans is still in the very early stages, researchers from Stanford University may have made a significant breakthrough. The team of scientists successfully restored a blind rat's ability to sense light through the use of a new kind of prosthetic retina. The device was implanted into the eye of a blind rat, and brain scans were used to discover that the rat had "seen" the light.
The Stanford team was able to develop a wireless prosthesis that projects camera images onto the retina using near-infared light. A solar cell implanted in the retina converts the light into electric current, which activates neurons in the retina – mimicking what the photoreceptor cells in the eye are designed to do. In the rat experiment, the visual cortex showed a response when light was shone onto the prosthetic device, indicating that the rat's eye had sensed the light.
This is a significant step towards treating blindness caused by diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration in humans. Though retinal prosthesis has been in development for some time, the results of this research indicate that a device can be wireless, scalable and effective.