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Retinal Implants

July 18, 2006

A new technique for making replacement retinas could sit better in the body.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
A more natural artificial retina. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

To restore sight to people with damaged retinas, scientists are developing implantable chips that stimulate the nerves in the eye. Most of the prototype implants are electrical. But Stanford University chemical engineer Stacey Bent is developing a biochemical version.

STACEY BENT (Stanford University):
So, where the chip interacts with the nerve cell, instead of sending out an electrical signal, it’s going to release a little pulse of a chemical, called a neurotransmitter, that the nerve cell responds to.

HIRSHON:
Since that’s how the real retina works, the chip should be more compatible with the eye. In fact, in lab experiments, Bent’s team is training retinal nerves to grow right into the chip. And while restoring normal vision is a long way off, it’s hoped that the first implants will allow people to see rough shapes and motion.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.