Implantable bionic chip could restore sight to blind

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A team of researchers is developing an implantable bionic chip, especially designed to return sight to victims of retinal degenerative diseases.

CSEM, an R&D centre specialising in micro and nanotechnology, is collaborating with medical research Nano-Retina on an ultra small, high resolution and east to implant artificial retina. According to the researchers, the bionic retina incorporates a range of nano size components in one tiny implant that compensates for the damaged tissue without the need to operate. In a healthy eye, light travels through the eyeball into the retina, where photoreceptors react and convert it into an electrical signal which is transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then recreates the image that we see. According to CSEM, when the nerve connections and the optic nerve are still functioning, the artificial retina will enable the relaying of the visual information to the brain in place of the damaged retinal photoreceptors. The information can then be processed and the transmitted visual data recreated. The bionic chip comprises a small imager, similar to that used in a digital camera, and an electronic interface including a network of electrodes designed to stimulate the optic nerve so that it sends the visual data collected by the chip, to the brain. The implant will be powered by an external source integrated in a pair of special spectacles that the patient will have to wear. The first clinical trials are scheduled for 2013.