Rethinking Healthcare

Bio-Retina: new bionic eye implant is laser-powered

Bio-Retina: new bionic eye implant is laser-powered

Posting in Science

A tiny retinal implant captures images directly in the eye. It's driven by a rechargeable, battery-powered mini laser and can be implanted in half an hour.

A new retinal implant could help blind people recognize faces, watch TV, and read again. Popular Science reports.

Nano Retina’s Bio-Retina captures images directly in the eye, and a rechargeable, battery-powered mini laser powers the implant remotely.

  • The implant is flat and tiny, about the size of a little child’s fingernail. It can be inserted through a little incision in the eye in just 30 minutes and requires just local anesthesia. (Pictured, in the little square.)
  • Ordinary-looking glasses contain a battery and a laser apparatus to deliver power. The glasses also have working lenses for vision problems like nearsightedness and astigmatism.
  • The infrared laser beam shines through the eye onto the implant – providing up to 3 milliwatts of power to a photovoltaic cell on the eye implant. (The laser is harmless, and since the light is invisible, it won’t interfere with sight.)
  • Photoreceptors pass light to an image processor that translates each image pixel into a series of electric impulses that represent particular shades of gray.
  • Then there’s 600 needle electrodes, which are wrapped in biocompatible silicon and sapphire to prevent the formation of scar tissue. These penetrate the retina (pictured, on the right). Each electrode represents one pixel, sending pulses of electricity to stimulate the eye’s neurons, which transmit the image to the brain.

The device generates a grayscale image. Recovery time is estimated at a week, and return of sight is anticipated to be instantaneous.

About 50,000 people in the US go blind annually. Age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy are some of the causes of degenerative blindness.

Second Sight’s Argus II is a similar implant that’s been on the market in Europe since last year. But because it includes an antenna to receive power, the implant requires a 4-hour operation under full anesthesia.

Nano Retina is a joint venture of Zyvex Labs and Rainbow Medical. Clinical trials for Bio-Retina could begin in a year. Watch a video of how this works.

With a $60,000 target price for Bio-Retina [pdf], Nano Retina expects to achieve annual sales of more than $1 billion.

[Via PopSci]

Image: Nano Retina

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure