Researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology have developed a retinal implant that can restore lost vision in rats, and they're planning to try the procedure on humans later this year, Science Alert reports.
The implant converts light into an electrical signal that stimulates retinal neurons, and it could help millions who lose their vision to retinal degeneration, including those who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa. These conditions cause photoreceptor cells in the eye to break down, leading to blindness.
The retina is made up of millions of these light-sensitive photoreceptors. But mutations in any one of the 240 identified genes can cause these photoreceptor cells to die off.
But the retinal nerves still remain intact and functional, so previous research has aimed to treat retinitis pigmentosa with bionic eye devices or gene editing to repair the mutations that cause blindness.
This new approach, however, uses a prosthesis implanted into the eye that serves as a working replacement for a damaged retina.
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