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