Glasgow & West Scotland

Scots scientists aim to develop prosthetic retina

Human eye
Image caption AMD affects one in eight people aged over 85

Scottish scientists are working on a device to restore sight in people with a specific form of blindness.

Strathclyde University in Glasgow aims to create a prosthetic retina to tackle age related macular degeneration (AMD).

The condition affects one in 500 patients aged between 55 and 64 and one in eight aged over 85.

The retina under development is a thin silicon device with no wires, which would be simpler to surgically implant than devices currently used.

Strathclyde University is working on the new device in partnership with Stanford University in California.

'Simpler design'

The new retina is described as being "simpler in design and operation than existing models".

It is said to act by electrically stimulating neurons in the retina, which are left relatively unscathed by the effects of AMD while other image-capturing cells, known as photoreceptors, are lost.

It would use video goggles to deliver energy and images directly to the eye and be operated remotely via pulsed near infra-red light - unlike most prosthetic retinas, which are powered through coils that require complex surgery to be implanted.

Dr Keith Mathieson from Strathclyde University is one of the lead researchers on the project.

He said: "AMD is a huge medical challenge and, with an aging population, is continuing to grow.

"The prosthetic retina we are developing has been partly inspired by cochlear implants for the ear but with a camera instead of a microphone and, where many cochlear implants have a few channels, we are designing the retina to deal with millions of light sensitive nerve cells and sensory outputs.

"The implant is thin and wireless and so is easier to implant.

"Since it receives information on the visual scene through an infra-red beam projected through the eye, the device can take advantage of natural eye movements that play a crucial role in visual processing."

A paper on the under-development implant is published in the latest edition of Nature Photonics.

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