Newly developed light sensitive proteins, genetically introduced into retinal nerve cells, may lead to the ability to restore vision in the blind. One challenge in developing a real-world system is that these protein activated neurons require a high energy light source for them to send electrical signals to the brain. Moreover, this light source needs to be both very precise and wide-field to activate large number of cells at the same time.
To that end, researchers at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are using holography to activate the repaired retinal nerve cells – and have already tested the technology on mice. They tried lasers, projectors, and video displays, but they were either not bright enough or didn’t have the ability to effectively stimulate large numbers of cells. Holography did the trick. The researchers admit this work is still in its early stages, but the fact that it’s pointing to definite application in the future is certainly promising for the field of ophthalmology.
Selectively exciting large neural populations are essential for eliciting meaningful perceptions in the brain. Here we provide the first demonstration of holographic photo-stimulation strategies for bionic vision restoration. In blind retinas, we demonstrate reliable holographically patterned optogenetic stimulation of retinal ganglion cells with millisecond temporal precision and cellular resolution. Holographic excitation strategies could enable flexible control over distributed neuronal circuits, potentially paving the way towards high-acuity vision restoration devices and additional medical and scientific neuro-photonics applications.
Abstract in Nature Communications: Holographic optogenetic stimulation of patterned neuronal activity for vision restoration
Press release: Holographic Technique Could Lead to Bionic Vision