Artificial retina restores mouse vision, humans not far off
A new type of artificial retina may one day allow blind people to see with much greater detail than today’s prosthetic eyes allow. The new system, described in a study by Sheila Nirenberg and Chethan Pandarinath of the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, was designed to work more like frontline photoreceptor cells naturally do. “If you want to really restore normal vision, you have to know the retina’s code,” Nirenberg said. “Once you have that, the door is open to the possibility of restoring normal vision.”
In mouse testing, the researchers found the new retina (center photo above) sensed more details of the original image (left) than current systems (right). “Incorporating the [more accurate] code jumped the system’s performance up to normal levels – that is, there was enough information to reconstruct faces, newsprint, landscapes, essentially anything,” said Nirenberg. Prosthetic eyes may one day benefit over 25 million people worldwide who have lost sight due to retinal diseases– the next step forward is to begin studies in humans.