Scientists have developed a high-resolution retinal prosthesis using nanowires and wireless electronics to aid neurons in the retina to respond to light.
Tens of millions of people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases that affect eyesight, including macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and loss of vision due to diabetes could be helped with the treatment.
According to researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and the US-based startup Nanovision Biosciences, the new prosthesis relied on two groundbreaking technologies. The first technology had allowed arrays of silicon nanowires that sensed light and electrically stimulated the retina to be built.
The nanowires gave the prosthesis higher resolution than anything achieved by other devices, which was close to the dense spacing of photoreceptors in the human retina.
In the other breakthrough, a wireless device transmitted power and data to the nanowires over the same wireless link at record speed and energy efficiency.
According to the researchers, one of the main differences between their prototype and existing retinal prostheses was that the new system did not require a vision sensor outside of the eye to capture a visual scene and then transform it into alternating signals to sequentially stimulate neurons in the retina.