09 Jun

New Hope for Retinal Degeneration

Retinal degeneration is a problem that many face as they become older.

There have been a few ways that scientists have tried to stop it. A new approach is being tried by a group from the Italian Institute of Technology.

Previously, much of the research for treating retinal degeneration (or retinitis pigmentosa) has been mainly using bionic eye devices or CRISPR gene editing. The Italian Institute of Technology‘s new approach, however, is quite different. They use a prosthesis made of polymer placed on a silk material to replace the damaged retina. It absorbs photons when light comes into the eye. The electricity then provokes retinal neurons which do the job that the damaged photoreceptors no longer do.

Without experiment, though, not much information can be gained and not much can be done, so they then tested their prosthesis on rats whom they gave a similar type of retinal degeneration.  They tested how sensitive they were to light. At low intensity they weren’t that much more affected than non tested rats, but a few months later they tested them at a higher intensity and they essentially had the same response as a regular and healthy animal.  After testing they concluded that the implant actually activates the “residual neuronal circuitries in the degenerate retina”, and they are doing more testing to see exactly how it works.

One of the researchers said they hope to “replicate in humans the excellent results obtained in animal models.”  Their plan is to carry out the the first human tests in the second half of 2017 and hopefully have some results during 2018.

Find out more at: http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-have-created-an-artificial-retina-implant-that-could-restore-vision-to-millions


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