UK Scientists Attempt to Cure Blindness with Retina Implants

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July 24, 2006 *– Last week, UK scientists at the University of Glasgow released new research information on a potential cure for blindness, using a retina implant prototype modeled after digital camera technology.

Headed by Dr. Keith Mathieson of the University of Glasgow Department of Physics, the researchers hope to use the latest research for retina prosthesis, or small microelectronic implants on the retina.

Blindness is caused by dying light cells in the back of the eyes. The implants would "fool the brain into believing the retina, which converts light into signals that are sent to the brain, is still in working order," said Mathieson in the University of Glasgow’s news release. The device, in theory, would pick up a light source image and then produce an electrical stimulation on the retina.

"The stimulated cells then send the information via the optic nerve to the brain. The imaging part of the system is based upon the technology which is used in any digital camera," said Mathieson.

The prototype of the retina implants has 100 pixels, although at lease 500 pixels are needed for face recognition, according to Mathieson.

There is an estimated 1.3 million legally blind Americans, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, and approximately 10 million visually impaired people in the U.S.

With the research still in it infancy, Mathieson anticipates that it will be anywhere between five years to a decade before the implants are actualized in human retinas. The implants could help those suffering from the age-related retina disease macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, he said.

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