Scientists Develop Miniature Eye Implant That Could Cure Blindness

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A team of European scientists has developed a tiny eye implant aimed at curing blindness. This innovation significantly enhances the conversion of electrical signals into visual images in the brain, marking a revolutionary advancement in treatment.

Electrodes’ size makes it challenging to replicate eye’s electrical signals

Vision impairment frequently stems from damage to ocular components, yet the visual cortex in the brain remains unaffected. It persists in its activity, anticipating communication from the eye regarding external surroundings. Regrettably, such communication fails to materialize.

Since its inception in the 1990s, implant technology has faced numerous obstacles. Implants need thousands of electrodes to replicate the eye’s electrical signals to the brain for creating visual images, with each electrode representing only a single pixel. The large size of implants and the risk of brain scarring make it challenging to maintain electrodes in the brain over extended periods.

The visual representation wouldn’t mimic the perception of someone with unimpaired vision. According to Maria Asplund, a professor of Bioelectronics at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the depiction formed through electrical signals resembles a matrix-like display found on highways, characterized by dark spaces punctuated by illuminated spots, contingent on the data provided. Asplund suggests that the quality of this representation improves with an increased number of electrodes contributing to its generation.

Novel vision implant uses electrode thread to transmit signals

The recent study in Advanced Healthcare Materials presents a novel vision implant notable for its miniature size, comparable to a single brain cell. Unlike previous models, this implant features multiple electrode “threads” arranged sequentially, potentially accommodating thousands of electrodes on one implant. Increased electrode density enhances image resolution.

Asplund explained that miniaturizing vision implant components, particularly electrodes, is crucial to stimulate multiple spots in the brain’s visual areas. The research question focused on whether it’s feasible to fit numerous electrodes on an implant while ensuring it remains small and effective which was confirmed by the study,

Additionally researchers addressed the challenge with the new vision implant concerning material rusting over time, particularly in humid environments since maintenance and metal corrosion in surgical implants can pose health risks.

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