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 Stimulating sight: New retinal implant developed

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Date posted: 23/09/2009

Inspired by the success of cochlear implants that can restore hearing to some deaf people, researchers at MIT are working on a retinal implant that could one day help blind people regain a useful level of vision.

Inspired by the success of cochlear implants that can restore hearing to some deaf people, researchers at MIT are working on a retinal implant that could one day help blind people regain a useful level of vision.

The eye implant is designed for people who have lost their vision from retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration, two of the leading causes of blindness. The retinal prosthesis would take over the function of lost retinal cells by electrically stimulating the nerve cells that normally carry visual input from the retina to the brain.

Such a chip would not restore normal vision but it could help blind people more easily navigate a room or walk down a sidewalk.

"Anything that could help them see a little better and let them identify objects and move around a room would be an enormous help," says Shawn Kelly, a researcher in MIT's Research Laboratory for Electronics and member of the Boston Retinal Implant Project.

The research team, which includes scientists, engineers and ophthalmologists from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Boston VA Medical Center and Cornell as well as MIT, has been working on the retinal implant for 20 years. The research is funded by the VA Center for Innovative Visual Rehabilitation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Catalyst Foundation and the MOSIS microchip fabrication service.

Led by John Wyatt, MIT professor of electrical engineering, the team recently reported a new prototype that they hope to start testing in blind patients within the next three years.

See the full Story via external site: www.physorg.com



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