A new dawn in optical innovation is set to dramatically improve vision using miniaturized components that fit entirely behind the eye.
Most forms of blindness, including macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, result from the degeneration of light sensing receptor cells at the back of the eye. The neural pathways that convey information from the eye to the brain however, often remain intact.
The Wyss Center is supporting development of a bionic implant that will bypass damaged optical cells and restore lost vision by directly stimulating the optic nerve.
Led by Professor Diego Ghezzi, in collaboration with Professor Silvestro Micera, both from the Center for Neuroprosthetics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the project aims to develop a system that will convert images captured with a head-mounted camera to a pattern of electrical signals.
These signals will be relayed to an electrode implanted in the optic nerve, stimulating the nerve fibers. The information will then be transmitted along the optic nerve to the brain where it is interpreted as sight.
A flexible electrode array will allow the electrodes to be implanted into different regions of the optic nerve. This will enable the stimulation of nerve fibers, making the system able to treat several different disorders.
One of the most innovative aspects of this project is that real time feedback from the electrode array will be processed by an implanted microprocessor to adjust and optimize the patient’s vision.