New Retinal Prosthesis That Works Like a Solar Panel May Restore Sight to Patients With Macular Degeneration

May 16, 2012

A team from the Stanford University School of Medicine led by Dr. Daniel Palanker has published research in the May 2012 issue of Nature Photonics concerning their development of a new retinal prosthesis that uses what are best described as miniature solar panels to turn light signals into nerve impulses.

The system consists of a small photovoltaic chip (similar to a solar panel) that is surgically implanted beneath the retina, and specially designed goggles equipped with a microprocessor and miniature camera. The output of the camera is displayed on a miniature LCD screen, located on the inside surface of the goggles. The screen then beams the images displayed as pulses of infra-red laser light to to photodiodes on the chip implanted in the retina, which will then send those images to the brain.

As Dr. Palanker summed up the technology: “It works like the solar panels on your roof, converting light into electric current. But instead of the current flowing to your refrigerator, it flows into your retina.”

So far the technology has been tested in rats, but the team is looking for a sponsor for human trials.

The Stanford technology differs from other retinal prosthesis technologies such as the Argus™ II Retinal Prosthesis System offered by Second Sight in that those other technologies involve more in the way of hardware such as coils or antennas being implanted in the eye, while the technology used in the light-based Stanford system is primarily located in the goggles.

Click here and here to read more about this new technology.




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