Scientists have made a breakthrough in potentially restoring vision to the blind.
Researchers have uncovered the retina’s neural code for brain communication to create a better prosthetic retinal device for blindness – potentially changing the lives of millions around the world.
Two scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College have studied the neural code of a mouse’s retina and used this information in an innovative prosthetic device that restores sight to the blind animals.
Researchers also believe that they have cracked the code for a monkey retina, which is more or less identical to that of a human. They hope to use this knowledge to design and test a device that blind humans could use to regain their sight.
According to the research, detailed in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these devices would be much more advanced than the current technology in place to help blind individuals.
Currently, prosthetics provide blind users with spots and edges of light, which help them navigate. Still, this new technology would potentially restore normal vision, deciphering facial features, and tracking moving images.
Lead researcher Dr. Sheila Nirenberg, from Weill Cornell, spoke of a future in which blind people would have to wear a Star Trek-style visor to allow them to see. The visors camera would take in light, use a computer chip to turn it into a code, which the brain would then translate into an image.
She said: “It’s an exciting time. We can make blind mouse retinas see, and we’re moving as fast as we can to do the same in humans.”
“This is the first prosthetic that has the potential to provide normal or near-normal vision because it incorporates the code.”
Scientists hope this new research will provide hope for 25 million people worldwide who suffer blindness due to diseases of the retina.