World's First Artificial Retina Developed
Scientists in the US have developed the first artificial retina, an ultra-thin device made using 2D materials, which could help people with retinal disease regain their sight.
It is hoped that the technology could help millions of people with diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
Retinal diseases are conditions that affect the retina – the layer of tissue on the back of the eye. The retina contains nerve cells that receive visual information and sends it to the brain.
Diseases that impact the retina can cause serious eye problems including sight loss, especially if they are not treated.
One retinal condition is where the retina becomes detached from the eye, causing sudden sight problems such as flashing lights or dots in the vision. Other retinal diseases include diabetic retinopathy where the blood vessels in the back of the eye deteriorate.
Macular degeneration is also a retinal disease – this is where the centre of the retina begins to deteriorate, causing blurred central vision, usually affecting older people.
For some of these conditions there is no cure. Although injections and light treatments can help restore some vision, or slow down the rate of sight loss in some people, there can be side effects and some people may not notice any improvement.
Implants are currently in clinical trials, but there are concerns that they could cause long-term strain to the eye due to them being rigid.
Researchers from the University of Texas in the US and Seoul National University in South Korea have created the world’s first artificial retina, which could offer hope to people with retinal diseases.
The device is ultra-thin and flexible so that it can replicate the natural curve of the retina. It is made using 2D materials graphene and molybdenum disulphide.
Tests have showed that the artificial retina successfully mimics the structure and features of the human eye, and scientists believe it could be an important step towards the development of retinal prostheses.
Exciting starting point
One of the scientists involved in the development, Nanshu Lu, said: “Although this research is still in its infancy, it is a very exciting starting point for the use of these materials to restore vision.”
It is thought that the device could also be implanted elsewhere in the body to monitor heart and brain activities.
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