26th Dec, 2018

Artificial retina research may offer hope for patients with severe retinal damage

retinal specialist San Diego

Artificial retina research may offer hope for patients with severe retinal damage

Here at California Retina Associates, we use the most advanced medical technology currently available to help save our patients’ sight. However, our current technology is not able to regrow the cells that make up the retina. Once these are gone, there is currently no way to regain the lost vision.

However, scientists around the world are working to find ways to replace a lost retina. While we still don’t have a validated, clinically available method for doing this, researchers have made significant progress toward the development of an artificial retina, which could be used to replace a retina that is no longer functional.

At its core, the concept behind this is similar to that of a cochlear implant for patients with hearing loss. This is an artificial device which can restore a significant level of hearing. Cochlear implants have been used successfully for decades, and researchers hope to achieve similar success for patients with vision loss.

Artificial retina

An artificial retina must do two things. First, it must sense light. Second, it must communicate information about what it has sensed to the brain, in a way that allows the brain to process the information.

One artificial retina device (medically known as a retinal prosthesis) has already reached the market. It’s currently approved for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, which is a genetic disorder that leads to gradual loss of sight, and for which no other treatments are available. This device, called the Argus II, uses a pair of glasses with a camera mounted on them as the light-sensing portion of the system.

The camera then transmits images wirelessly to an artificial device mounted on the retina. This device creates a series of small electrical pulses, which communicate the information detected by the camera to the neurons of the retina. From there, the information is passed to the brain. Over time, the brain learns to interpret these signals.

Although the Argus II system can help patients to navigate their environments independently, and even to read large letters, it doesn’t fully restore normal sight. The level of visual acuity that can be achieved with it is limited. Additionally, the system requires the user to wear the glasses in order to see; when the glasses are taken off, the patient loses their vision. It can make a big difference for some patients, but it’s far from perfect.

New developments in artificial retina research

A few months ago, a group of researchers reported on the development of a prototype device that improves on previous artificial retina designs. Using new materials, they created an artificial retina that is flexible and lightweight, so it can more easily be implanted into an eye and mimic its natural curvature. This device contains detectors that sense light, and converts them into electrical impulses that stimulate the neurons of the retina. This allows it to more closely mimic the function of a natural retina, and does not require wearing glasses.

Another group has reported on a method for creating an artificial retina using certain pigments, which could be capable of generating enough electrical current to directly stimulate retinal cells. This is another potential route to creating an artificial retina that mimics a natural retina, with no requirement for glasses.

More research will be needed to develop a fully functional artificial retina, but these are promising leads. Researchers will continue their work in this field, offering hope to those who suffer from irreversible damage to the retina that has resulted in a complete, or nearly complete, loss of sight.

Retinal specialist San Diego

Here at California Retina Associates, as a retinal specialist San Diego, our goal is always to help save your natural sight by treating any conditions of the retina using the most advanced medical technology. Many cases of vision loss can be prevented with proper medical care. However, for those cases in which severe vision loss does occur, an artificial retina could be very helpful. We will continue to follow the developments in this field, so that we can advise our patients

Posted on December 26, 2018 By , in

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