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Surprising Science

Retina Implant Restores Vision With No External Hardware

Just after the FDA approved a special pair of glasses that help restore vision to the blind, a German company has built a system which requires no external hardware to function properly.

What’s the Latest Development?

Hot on the heels of an FDA-approved device which helps blind patients distinguish color and shapes with the help of specialty glasses, a German company named Retina Implant has created a microchip that restores vision without any externally visible gear. “The implanted device consists of a three-millimeter-square chip with 1,500 pixels. Each pixel contains a photodiode, which picks up incoming light, and an electrode and an amplification circuit, which boosts the weak electrical activity given off by the diode.” A thin cable that runs through the eye socket connects the implant to a small coil implanted under the skin behind the ear.

What’s the Big Idea?

Thanks to advances in biotechnology, visual prostheses now occupy a large share of the cutting-edge medical device market. These devices are simultaneously available to the public. “More than 20 groups worldwide are working on some form of visual prosthesis, says Joseph Rizzo, a neuro-ophthalmologist with Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, who is also developing an artificial retina.” Thanks to Retina Implant, eight of the nine patients in the device’s clinical trial could perceive light and five were able to detect everyday objects such as cutlery, doorknobs, and telephones.

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Read it at Technology Review


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