A number of devices, such as the Argus II, have been developed over recent years to replace the human retina. Many, however, use metallic parts, cumbersome wiring or have low resolution. An interdisciplinary team from Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Centers for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Newcastle University, are developing what they describe as an improvement over current technology.
The researchers combined semiconductor nanorods and carbon nanotubes to create a wireless, light-sensitive, flexible film that could potentially act in the place of a damaged retina. When they tested it with a chick retina that normally doesn’t respond to light, they found that the film absorbed light and, in response, sparked neuronal activity. In comparison with other technologies, the researchers conclude that theirs is more durable, flexible and efficient, as well as better able to stimulate neurons.
Currently available devices are restoring some vision to people who are profoundly blind. If successful in humans, nanotechnology may make the artificial retina more available to people with lesser visual impairments like macular degeneration.