nanowire retina implant

We have prosthetic arms and legs to help people who have lost limbs. We have cochlear implants to help people who have lost their hearing. Technology has come up with answers for many different types of physical impairments. Yet one area in particular remains difficult to solve: lost vision. We’ve covered research that hopes to provide digital technology devices to restore vision, but one hurdle is creating a device with sufficient resolution to simulate human vision.

Scientists at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) may have a solution. They have created a system that relies on a matrix of nanowires as an implant to replace a patient’s retina. The tiny wires have the advantage of being able to convert light directly into electrical impulses that directly will stimulate the patient’s own optic nerves. This eliminates the need for an external camera and a way to transmit the image from the camera to the implant. The device will need power, but this can be provided wirelessly through a simple yet efficient inductive system. The link can also be used to transmit data which can be used to control the implant.

The researchers have created a company to develop this technology, Nanovision Biosciences, which is conducting animal trials now in preparation for clinical trials with humans. While the approach holds great promise, it may be a while before this system is available commercially.