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Bio-Retina to enter clinical trials in 2013

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July 20, 2012

Drawing of a Bio-Retina being inserted into an eye and affixed to the AMD damaged retina b...

Drawing of a Bio-Retina being inserted into an eye and affixed to the AMD damaged retina by a nano-forceps

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At least 25-30 million people worldwide have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of blindness in middle-aged and older adults. Israeli start-up Nano Retina has announced its new Bio-Retina, a tiny array of photodetectors which can be implanted directly on the retinal surface. Ready to enter clinical trials in 2013, the Bio-Retina restores vision to AMD sufferers almost immediately following the simple implantation process.

The retina is a light sensitive tissue lining the inside rear surface of our eyes. Retinal tissue is layered, where the photoreceptors of the eye (rods and cones) are located beneath several layers of neurons and ganglia interconnected by synapses. These neurons transmit the image to the optic nerve, and the ganglia perform low-level processing of the visual information.

Cross-sectional diagram of the retinal tissue - light is incident on the top yellow surfac...

AMD is caused by deterioration or breakdown of the retina's central region, which is called the macula. It is a small area in the retina that is responsible for a person's central vision and which allows you to see fine details. AMD progressively destroys the ability of the rods and cones to convert light into signals transmitted along the optic nerve. A retina affected by AMD still has fully functional optic nerves, as well as the retinal subsystems which feed neural signals from the rods and cones into the optic nerve. But when the rods and cones are inactive, there are no light-generated neural signals for the rest of the retina to transfer. AMD patients often retain some peripheral vision, but their central vision usually disappears completely in time, resulting in legal blindness. Total blindness is also common. There are currently no effective treatments for AMD.

Bio-Retina

Nano Retina has now developed the Bio-Retina - a tiny (3 x 4 mm) microchip implant that is inserted into the eye and glued to the retina in a minimally invasive procedure. It does not treat AMD, but rather seeks to relieve the blindness resulting from AMD. A small slit is cut in the eye under local anesthesia, and the implant is inserted and pressed against the damaged macula.

A photograph showing the lower side of the Bio-Retina, together with some of the grid of m...

The Bio-Retina uses the optical system (lens, iris, and pointing and focusing musculature) of the eye. It consists of an integrated circuit with a grid of photodetectors, microelectrodes and microelectronic circuitry that replace the eye’s natural photoreceptors and feed visual information through the healthy retinal structures to the optic nerve and the visual centers of the brain. The patient does not have to learn to interpret jumbled images, as the photodetectors measure the incoming light in a particular location on the image, and then stimulate the optical neurons immediately below the spot where the light would have hit in any case. In most cases immediate, normal feeling sight will be returned to the patient. The image is only in grayscale at this point, but color implants are not beyond the reach of this basic technology.

Beginning next year, the first clinical studies will be carried out with a 24 x 24 pixel grid (576 photodetectors), while later rounds of the clinical studies will have a 72 x 72 pixel grid (5184 photodetectors). For comparison, the Argus II retinal implant, now approved for use in Europe, provides roughly an 8 x 8 pixel grid. The figure below gives a feeling for how much vision corresponds to different sized arrays.

Images of a subject at resolutions ranging from 4 x 4 pixels to 72 x 72 pixels.
Images of a subject at resolutions ranging from 4 x 4 pixels to 72 x 72 pixels.

Clearly at the smallest resolutions there is little effective sight - even at 10 x 10 pixels, one would see little more than presence or absence of a large object. At the early Bio-Retina resolution of 24 x 24 pixels, one can clearly make out there is a person wearing a hat, and even that the person is probably female, while the later Bio-Retina resolution of 72 x 72 pixels is rather like watching an old black and white TV image. Perfectly usable, if not exactly exciting - unless a moment ago you were blind!

One problem remains. To detect light and electrically stimulate the visual neurons requires a source of electrical power. Nano Retina solved this problem rather elegantly. The microchip implant was also given a very small photovoltaic cell, pointing toward the lens of the eye. The implant user wears glasses which are perfectly normal, except that they incorporate a near-infrared battery powered laser directed into the eye. The laser light is invisible and harmless to the eye, but can drive the photovoltaic cell to deliver as much as three milliwatts of electrical power - more than enough to power the implant. The movie below gives an excellent overview of the Bio-Retina and its clinical use.

Blindness following a lifetime of good vision is often a terrible blow to people hoping to complete their careers and enjoy retirement. Sight is so much a part of how we experience the world that the true consequences of its loss are beyond the capability of most of us to imagine. With luck, further development of this sort of research will prevent future generations from having to face this situation.

Source: Nano Retina

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer.   All articles by Brian Dodson
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13 Comments

This is a fantastic step forward. You have to wonder though, is it better to repair the eye tissue or put a sensor in there. It would be cool If the sensor was sensitive to infrared light, night vision baby!

Ross Jenkins
20th July, 2012 @ 04:04 am PDT

Wonderful advancement. I can just imagine what it will be like in 5-10 yrs. And yes ... night vision is most likely a goal.

MK23666
20th July, 2012 @ 10:26 am PDT

This is unbelievably exciting news....the eyesight of a friend has faded away for a family member....I hope this development can help him.

Jess Atwell
21st July, 2012 @ 01:41 am PDT

really fantastic concept but will the spectacle companies allow this come through?

we know what is happenning to bio fuels and their slllooowww progress

Hariharan Sahasranaman
23rd July, 2012 @ 06:27 am PDT

What a wonderful step forward for sight restoration .Kudos to Brian Dodson!

Mary Smith
23rd July, 2012 @ 11:56 am PDT

Hi Guys!!

Please can someone contact me regards clinical trials, as my mother would like to have the opportunity to apply for the list of attendants.

Many Thanks,

Wez

Wezley Joao Ferreira
28th July, 2012 @ 08:06 pm PDT

my dad is 77 yeas old and suffers from a horrible case of macular degeneration he is 77 years old and can't watch tv or read a paper or even recognize us (his family) when we come into the house. We will have to put him in a home some were if we can't get this problem fixed please let us know how we can get him in the study

richanorris69
11th August, 2012 @ 09:33 am PDT

My husband has lost one eye to Ocular Histoplasmosis and is fighting so hard to save his other. Through our research this seem to be the most promising treatment. How can we seek your help?

Diana Thomson Cowan
13th September, 2012 @ 04:06 am PDT

My friend was born with RP he is age 39 , he suffered several eye diseases along the way one of which glaucoma and the pressure left him totally blind ten years ago. He thinks nothing can be done to restore his sight , he's never seen his grandchildren and I'm begging for the chance to help him see again . Please help .

blondie.12@hotmail.co.uk

Blondie73
28th November, 2012 @ 04:48 pm PST

Dear nation please tell me where and which hospital this kind of camera (Bio-Retina ) for blind people can be put...????

It’s for my Grandfather.... his blindness started suddenly about 5 years ago he was in the lots of eyes hospital in the world but nobody could cure him, the doctors approved eyes nerves explosion for him... and told that this illness proximately can’t be cured in his age….

I will appreciate you help

regards

Mechele
6th February, 2013 @ 03:06 pm PST

Das ist einen wonderbare sache fuer mein man, bitte um mehr info,.

Nasrin Bakhtiarvandi Triebel
29th August, 2013 @ 11:10 am PDT

I am a 39 year old mother of 3. I lost central vision in my left eye when I was 25 as a result of a CNV due to PIC. I would love to take part in this clinical trial please please contacg me with information.

Helenjdaniels@yahoo.com

Helen Daniels
6th October, 2013 @ 11:02 am PDT

Just wondering if and when this might be made available to those of us who have severe Ocular Hystoplasmosis ?

Sherri Eis
28th July, 2014 @ 05:40 am PDT
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