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Ultra-Thin Artificial Retina
Ultra-Thin Artificial Retina
Researchers have developed the world's first ultrathin artificial retina that could improve on existing implantable visualization technology for the blind.
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Transcript
Other researchers at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, reported that they have successfully developed and tested the world's first ultrathin artificial retina that could vastly improve on existing implantable visualization technology for the blind.

The flexible 2D material-based device could someday restore sight to the millions of people with retinal diseases. The artificial retina was successfully fabricated from graphene and molybdenum disulfide, as well as thin layers of gold, alumina and silicon nitrate to create a flexible, high-density and curved sensor array.

The retina, located at the back of the eye, contains specialized photoreceptor cells called rods and cones that convert incoming light into nerve signals. These impulses travel into the brain via the optic nerve where they are decoded into visual images.

Diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinitis pigmentosa can damage or destroy retinal tissue, leading to vision loss or complete blindness. There is no cure for many of these diseases, but silicon-based retinal implants have restored a modicum of vision to some individuals.

However, these devices are rigid, flat and fragile, making it hard for them to replicate the natural curvature of the retina. As a result, silicon-based retinal implants often produce blurry or distorted images and can cause long-term strain or damage to surrounding eye tissue, including the optic nerve. The new research aims to develop a thinner, more flexible alternative that will better mimic the shape and function of a natural retina.

The device, which resembles the surface of a flattened soccer ball or icosahedron, conforms to the size and shape of a natural retina without mechanically disturbing it.

In laboratory and animal studies, photodetectors on the device readily absorbed light and passed it through a soft external circuit board. The circuit board housed all of the electronics needed to digitally process light, stimulate the retina and acquire signals from the visual cortex. Based on these studies, the researchers determined that the prototype artificial retina is biocompatible and successfully mimics the structural features of the human eye. They say it could be an important step in the quest to develop the next generation of soft bio-electronic retinal prostheses.

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