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Israeli company develops bionic retina

Posted: 14 Feb 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:implantable bionic chip? retinal implants? age-related macular degeneration?

Israeli company Nano-Retina is working with scientists and engineers to design an implantable bionic chip that will restore eyesight to those afflicted with retinal degenerative diseases. With laboratories in Herzliya, Israel and Texas, U.S, Nano-Retina is creating an ultra-small, high-resolution and easy-to-implant artificial retina for the legally blind.

To date, there are about 10 million people worldwide aged 40 and older who are legally blind, most of them due to degenerative conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AMD is the third cause worldwide of visual impairment, accounting for 8.7 percent of such cases. Thus far, there is no preventive or curative treatment available for this condition.

This bionic retina incorporates various nano-size components in one tiny, flat implant, approximating the size of a child's fingernail bed. Nano-Retina has entrusted CSEMbased on its competencies in low-power IC design and photosensorswith the development of an artificial retinal chip. The aim of this project is to develop a new generation of tiny retinal implants that compensate for the damaged retina, without having to resort to an operation, which would be traumatic for the patient. The procedure will entail a simple local anesthesia, a small incision (approximately 5mm) in the sclera, followed by "gluing" of the implant over the damaged retina.

The implant procedure will last barely half-an-hour. The implant is designed to work harmoniously with the natural functionalities of the eye, such as pupil dilation and eyeball movement.

The bionic chip comprises a small imager, similar to that used in a digital camera, and an electronic interface including a network of electrodes designed to stimulate the optic nerve so that it sends the visual datacollected by the chipto the brain. The implant will be powered by an external source integrated in a pair of special spectacles that the patient will have to wear.

The first clinical trials on humans are scheduled for 2013.

- Phil Ling
??EE Times

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