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[IP] Eye microchip could save sight

>From the BBC:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2547491.stm

Short link to the same page:  : http://makeashorterlink.com/?G4CE313B2

Eye microchip could save sight

Scientists are developing an electronic eye implant which they believe could
help millions of people to see again.
The microchip works by stimulating cells around the retina. This in turn
stimulates cells in the brain, helping people to see once more.

Tests on animals have shown that the tiny microchip can restore sight. US
Government scientists, who are spearheading the project, believe they could
have a human implant within three years. The microchip, which acts as an
artificial retina, would be surgically implanted into the eye.

Stimulates cells

The electronic device stimulates surrounding cells that have not been
damaged. This enables sight to be restored. The 4mm microchip is attached to
a type of silicone called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). This substance is
flexible and can conform to the curved shape of the retina without damaging
surrounding tissue. Researchers at the University of California, who are
also involved in the project, have already successfully tested the implant
on three dogs. They are now working with scientists at the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory to develop a microchip that could be used on

The implant needs to be strong to withstand surgery and to be
biocompatible - able to withstand the physiological conditions of the eye.
The researchers are now working on what they are describing as a second
generation implant. This will have a greater number of electrodes and
electronic chips. It will also be stronger to prevent it from curling or

The prototype implants contain 16 electrodes, allowing patients to detect
the presence or absence of light. The artificial retina project's "next
generation" device would have 1,000 electrodes and hopes to allow the user
to see images. The scientists believe the implant could help people who are
losing their sight or who are registered blind to see properly again.

The project has received $9m funding from the US Department of Energy.

Announcing the funding, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said: "Restoring
vision to patients with retinal disorders is the truly marvelous goal of
this team of researchers."
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