Retinal Implant Could Increase Your Eyesight’s Longevity
When someone becomes blind, a major part of the eye and also, in most cases, the nerves responsible for taking signals from the retina remain intact. Blindness, however, is a direct consequence of the degeneration of the retina in which the light-sensitive cells on the retina become disoriented or damaged.
Researchers from Italy have come up with a device that will help overcome the age-long obstacle of retinal degeneration. Unlike the existing solution to the problem, which involves using external devices to send signals to the retina via wires, the researchers have developed something lesser complicated.
In order to counter retinal degeneration, the researchers from Italy have designed a simple device. The device uses silk at is base, given the bio-compatibility capabilities of the material,which allows cells to grow around them and get attached to. The silk is layered with a conductive polymer material [poly(3,4-ethylene- dioxythiophene)-poly(styrenesulfonate)]. The third layer, which is on top of the polymer, is an organic semiconductor [poly(3-hexylthiophene)], which exhibits with photovoltaic properties when subjected to ambient light conditions. Researchers have claimed that when the material is implanted in the retina, the light entering the eye would instigate a local build up of charge, which in turn would cause the nerve cells under the retina to come alive.
The researchers from Italy tested their device on a breed of rats that are vulnerable to retinal degeneration. They surgically implanted the device into the rats’ retinas, covering 10-15 percent of their retinas. After letting the eye heal, they subjected the rats to light to see how their eyes respond to it. The rat testing, according to the researchers, indicated that the device worked and that it can restore a degree of vision. When the rats were exposed to minimal light not much difference could be noticed in their pupil’s reaction as compared to their untreated siblings’. However, as the intensity of light was increased a strong pupil closure response could be seen among the treated rats. The researchers claim that the device restores vision and does not cause any inflammation to the eye.
While the research and testing indicates that the device works, the extent of its effectiveness cannot be ascertained. Since rats were tested on with this device, it would be impossible to decipher whether they saw better after the implant. A detailed set of tests would be required to know for sure how the and till what extent the retinal implant can restore vision. Though if successful, this would be a breakthrough in science, giving way to a simpler solution for retinal degeneration.