A while back, we reported on Second Sight Medical Products IDE approval for clinical trials. While there’s no new news, the Associated Press is running a piece on Dr. Kristina Narfstrom and Optobionics‘ implant research in cats. We have originally reported on Optobionics’ Artificial Silicon Retina ™ microchip technology back in February 2005. According to the AP, Abyssinian cats apparently make a great animal model for retinitis pigmentosa. While Second Sight uses a camera-to-processor-to-electrode array setup, Optobionics uses an array of microphotodiodes. Their objective seems to induce retinal regeneration via electrical stimulation, rather than necessarily create artificial vision…
The 2-millimeter-wide chips, developed by Optobionics Corp. of Naperville, Ill., are surgically implanted in the back of eye. Each chip’s surface is covered with 5,000 microphotodiodes that react to light, sending electric signals along the eye’s optic nerve to the brain.
“We’re placing it right where the photoreceptors are and if they’re lacking, this is supposed to replace what they’re doing,” she said. “At this point, its impulses of light they’re seeing (as opposed to images), but the aim of the research is to get more information out of the chip.”
Besides helping slow the advance of the disease, studies suggest that the electric currents generated by the chips may be regenerating damaged photoreceptors surrounding the implants.
Narfstrom said she should know in about two years whether the implants are actually encouraging retinal cells in her cats to grow.
Given that the whole implant is only powered by what’s produced by the photodiodes, there’s little likelihood that it’s actually dumping enough current to activate any of the retinal layers. However, results are results.
More from David Twiddy’s AP article and from Optobionics…
(Via Slashdot, via Docinthemachine)