Artificial eye


A short piece in the MIT Technology Review describes a new retinal implant designed to remain in place for long periods of time:

In retinal diseases such as acute macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, the light-sensing cells of the retina may no longer work, even though the neurons that carry signals from these cells to the brain are still healthy. The Boston project uses an array of electrodes to stimulate these cells and reproduce a simplified visual image in the subject's brain. A camera mounted on a pair of eyeglasses captures an image, which is rapidly processed by a microcontroller to produce a simplified picture. This is then wirelessly beamed to the implant, which activates 15 electrodes inside the eye. The implant also receives power wirelessly from the microcontroller.

[The] implant sits mostly outside the eye. The coil around the iris receives wireless power and image data from a microcontroller that can be carried on a belt. The coil transmits data to electronics inside a waterproof titanium case. The electronics controls an electrode array (not visible) connected to nerves in the back of the retina. 

This device would be more bio-compatible than others, because it sits mostly outside the eye and therefore carries a reduced risk of inflammation and of a decline in performance with time. So far it has only been tested in pigs but human trials are planned for 2010.


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With my RP and my family history of macular degeneration, I fully expect to look like a cyborg if I live to get really old. My great grandchildren will be fascinated by me.

By carolyn13 (not verified) on 25 Sep 2008 #permalink

this is great, thanks

By Franks and beans (not verified) on 25 Sep 2008 #permalink

Wow! go MIT!! It seems like everywhere I look it's MIT did this, MIT discovered that... Fantastic.


KAS, hate to break the bubble, but MIT weren't the first and aren't the only group (and dare I say, not the most advanced!).

The first retinal prothesis patent was put out in the 1950's by an Australian, and the there are groups in Germany who are currently performing clinical tests (i.e. already implanted in humans). There are also Australian, Japanese and Sth Korean groups who are doing great work ... perhaps it's just that MIT has the best press release?

Todd: the distance that the signal is being transmitted is quite small ... and from what I understand, a big component of the telemetry is to actually power the damn thing. Better than having to resort to batteries, after all ;)