Chip Under the Retina Restores Sight to Blind

Retinitas Pigmentosa (RP) causes blindness as the back wall of the eye degenerates. At first, there is some tunnel vision and loss of night vision. Then slowly, the tunnel closes in over many years until there is no sight remaining. RP is a genetically inherited condition which had no remedy until recently.

It had long been theorized that if some form of electronic device could be implanted in the back of the eye to convert incoming light to signals that could be handed off to the optic nerve, the problem might be bypassed and vision could be restored. But this was just theory.

In 2010, several patients were given tiny microchip devices which were implanted beneath the retina to replace the lost ability. They were able to discern high contrast shapes and objects, but without great detail and only in black and white.

A more recent effort, being tested in live rats, uses a pair of goggles to collect images and relay them to a photovoltaic chip implanted beneath the retina.

German Retinal Implant Team Announce Successful Trials – [rpfightingblindness.org]

02 November 2010

New advances in retinal implant technology are enabling “blind people to see”, according to releases from The Royal Society today (3rd November 2010). Research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B reveals that a group of researchers based in Germany have developed a retinal implant that has allowed three blind people to see shapes and objects within days of the implant being installed.

The report states that one blind person was even able to identify and find objects placed on a table in front of him, as well as walking around a room independently and approaching people, reading a clock face and differentiating seven shades of grey.

The device, which has been developed by the company Retinal Implant AG together with the Institute for Ophthalmic Research at the University of Tuebingen, represents a significant advance in electronic visual prostheses and could eventually revolutionise the lives of up 200,000 people worldwide who suffer from blindness as a result of retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative eye disease.

New type of retinal prosthesis could better restore sight to blind, study says – [stanford.edu]

MAY 13, 2012
Using tiny solar-panel-like cells surgically placed underneath the retina, scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a system that may someday restore sight to people who have lost vision because of certain types of degenerative eye diseases.

This device — a new type of retinal prosthesis — involves a specially designed pair of goggles, which are equipped with a miniature camera and a pocket PC that is designed to process the visual data stream. The resulting images would be displayed on a liquid crystal microdisplay embedded in the goggles, similar to what’s used in video goggles for gaming. Unlike the regular video goggles, though, the images would be beamed from the LCD using laser pulses of near-infrared light to a photovoltaic silicon chip — one-third as thin as a strand of hair — implanted beneath the retina.

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Cyborg Science

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