Artificial Retina Can Restore Sight To The Blind

By Amir Khan on August 15, 2012 12:32 PM EDT

eye
The three blind mice might not be so anymore. Researchers restored sight to mice through a new prosthetic that they say could lead to the same in millions of blind people across the globe, according to a new study (Photo: Creative Commons: Flickr/orang)

The three blind mice might not be so anymore. Researchers restored sight to mice through a new prosthetic that they say could lead to the same in millions of blind people across the globe, according to a new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new technology goes beyond current devices, which only restore bright-light and high-contrast recognition. Sheila Nirenberg, study author and a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, said the device could be approved for human use within two years.

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Researchers decoded the signals the mouse brain used to communicate with its retina and were able to mimic it using glasses that send electrical signals. Older devices were much less advanced, and were inherently limited, researchers said.

"What this shows is that we have the essential ingredients to make a very effective prosthetic," Nirenberg told Bloomberg News.

Nirenberg and her research team monitored healthy eyes to determine how the brain decodes the signals it receives from the retina. From there, they used special glasses to mimic that code and send the same signal to the brain. The cells received the code and were able to convert it into images you can see.

Researchers said there is no foreseeable barrier to why this would not work in humans. Although they have not tested it in humans yet, they have developed code to let it work for monkeys, and said humans would be the next step.

"It's a major step, it's elegant, and it works," Jonathan Victor, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell University, who was not involved in the study, told Bloomberg News.

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