The retina is a lining of nerve cells at the back of your eyeball that converts light into impulses that are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. If this fragile lining is damaged, your vision can be limited or lost completely. Many diseases and conditions can lead to such damage, from macular degeneration to retinitis pigmentosa. Estimates indicate that more than 171 million people worldwide are living with one of these two conditions. We have covered retinal implants here in the past that address this problem, but a company in Israel has developed a novel approach.

Researchers at Nano Retina have developed 3DNi technology that relies on two components: a digital chip implant and special eyeglasses. The chip is coated on one side with tiny nano technology light sensors. Tiny electrodes protrude from the other side. The device is implanted in the back of the eyeball using a relatively simple surgical procedure. The matrix of hundreds of electrodes penetrate the back of the eye, where they come in direct contact with the nerves. The chip generates electrical signals that stimulate the optical nerve directly, which the patient perceives as a visual image.

The device is designed to use very little power, but even so it does not use batteries or have to be recharged. The special glasses shine infrared light in the patient’s eye, and this is converted into electricity to power the implant. The eyeglasses also control the chip, allowing the patient to adjust the system for different light levels and other conditions. This new approach to a bionic replacement for the normal vision system could help millions see again.