Artificial Retina Could Restore Vision to Millions of Blind People – Researchers developed the world’s first ultrathin artificial retina, potentially improving visualisation technology for the blind and restoring sight in millions of patients.
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What is a retina chip or artificial retina?
Device that electronically stimulates the retina is known as an artificial retina or retina chip. Patient must wear a pair of glasses with an inbuilt camera as part of the system. A chip which is inbuilt in the retina receives data from the camera. Information transfers from this chip to the brain via the optic nerve.
Who would it be appropriate for? Which illnesses is it intended to treat?
This method is based on the direct retinal stimulus and would be appropriate for patients with retinal issues who also have a healthy, undamaged optic nerve. The optic nerve is necessary for information transmission to the brain. For this reason, it won’t be helpful for those, who have illnesses of the optic nerve, such as glaucoma patients in the last stages whose optic nerve has already begun to atrophy.
This device won’t function in such circumstances. There are various retinal illnesses, but those that most impact the outer layers, particularly those of the photoreceptor cells, would stand to gain the most from such a device. Retinitis pigmentosa is one of these retinal disorders.
About artificial retina could restore vision to millions of blind people
Scientists aims to test the surgery on people later this year after creating a retinal implant that can restore lost vision in rats.
Millions of people who suffer from retinal degeneration, including retinitis pigmentosa, in which photoreceptor cells in the eye start to break down and cause blindness, may find hope in the implant, which transforms light into an electrical signal that stimulates retinal neurons.
These millions of light-sensitive photoreceptors make up the retina, which has found at the back of the eye. However, even though the retinal neurons around them are unharmed, mutations in one of the 240 known genes can cause retinal degeneration, in which these photoreceptor cells begin to die off.
Previous studies looked at curing retinitis pigmentosa with bionic eye implants that stimulate the neurons with light. While other researchers studied utilising CRISPR gene editing to correct the mutations that cause blindness because the retinal nerves are still present and functional.
A new strategy has been developed by a team led by the Italian Institute of Technology, using an implanted prosthetic to replace a damaged retina. A tiny layer of conductive polymer, mounted on a silk-based substrate, and covered in a semiconducting polymer make up the implant.
When light enters the eye’s lens, the semiconducting polymer functions as a photovoltaic material by absorbing photons. The natural but damaged photoreceptors in the eye are then filled in by electrical stimulation of retinal neurons. The artificial retina was implanted into the eyes of Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rats, who were bred to generate a rodent model of retinal degeneration, to evaluate the device.
Thirty days after the operation, the researchers evaluated the rats’ pupillary response to see how sensitive they were to light in comparison to healthy rats and RCS animals who had not been treated.
The treated rats weren’t much more responsive than the untreated RCS rats at the low intensity of 1 lux, which is a little brighter than the light from a full moon.
The pupillary response of treated rats, however, was practically indistinguishable from that of healthy animals as the light level rose to about 4-5 lux or roughly the same as a gloomy twilight sky. Even though all the rats in the tests—including the treated rats, the healthy animals, and the RCS controls—had experienced modest vision impairment because they were older, the implant was still effective in the rats when they were retested six and ten months following surgery.
The primary visual cortex, which processes visual information, became more active throughout the light sensitivity tests, as shown by the researchers using positron emission tomography (PET) to track rat brain activity. The researchers conclude that the implant directly activates “residual neuronal circuitries in the degenerate retina” based on the findings, but more study will be needed to clarify how the stimulation functions biologically.
Artificial retina implant hospital
In their report, scientists stated that it is still unclear exactly how the prosthetic works.
The team is optimistic that the outcomes shown in rats will translate to people, though there are no assurances.We won’t have to wait very long to find out, it seems.
Ophthalmologist Grazia Pertile from the Sacred Heart Don Calabria in Negrar, Italy, one of the researchers, says, “We hope to replicate in humans the excellent results obtained in animal models.” The first human studies will be conducted in the second part of this year, and preliminary data will be gathered in 2018. The use of this device may mark a turning point in the management of severely disabling retinal disorders.
Only those with a particular genetic retinal prosthesis disorder who still have some functional retinal cells are eligible for the implant. They must currently be able to see and have a healthy optic nerve. Retinitis pigmentosa, a set of inherited illnesses that causes blindness in around one in three thousand people, maybe helped with the artificial retina.
British health service covers expensive new technologies for select patients, with the gizmo costing around $100,000, according to expert Lyndon da Cruz. You also can read The 10 Best Eye Exercises for Better Vision
FAQs (Frequently Asked Question)
Can a blind person regain their vision?
No, there is currently no treatment for blindness. Nevertheless, depending on the origin and course of a person’s vision loss, treatments may be able to partially restore some vision loss. Millions of Americans who have vision loss and are categorised as blind live there.
Does a synthetic retina function?
Existing retinal implants provide a proof-of-concept for the viability of this strategy. However, significant advancements are required to create an artificial vision that is extremely helpful to the patient.
How much does a synthetic retina cost?
Only patients with advanced retinal degenerative disorders are candidates for the $100,000 implant system. There are various further restrictions on the gadget.