LONDON – Retina Implant AG, a developer of electronic sub-retinal implants for the visually impaired, has opened a manufacturing plant to meet anticipated demand for its devices.
The company has been revealing results from clinical trials in learned publications and plans to expand its second human clinical trial outside Germany in early 2011 to European countries including the U.K. and Italy. Discussions are underway for potential clinical trials in the United States and Asia.
The embedding of an artificial light-sensitive chip beneath the retina with connection to the optical nerve can be helpful where blindness is the result of retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition that leads to deterioration of the light sensitive cells in the retina.
The manufacturing plant meets standard for CE mark approval for the sub-retinal implant and the company is expected to apply for that in 2011. This would to allow the chip to be approved for use as a medical device throughout the European Union.
The core of the implant is a microchip of about 3-mm diameter and about 50-microns thickness, within which 1,500 light-sensitive pixels are arranged. This would correspond to an array of 50 x 30 pixels. Each pixel is 70 microns by 70 microns yielding a visual field of 12 degrees of arc, the company said.
When people have cataract surgery, removal of the "yellow" lens, results in enhanced vision into the near ultraviolet (UV) because the blocking filter has been removed. A key consideration in what colors could theoretically be seen by people with implants is the combination of the spectral sensitivities of the sensors AND the lens in front.
As I recall, insects (and birds) are reported to have vision in the ultraviolet (UV) which may be useful especially when detecting flower patterns. While snakes use infrared (IR) - detected by the pit organs - to detect potential warm blooded prey, I believe that reports of IR vision in birds have been dismissed (Wikipedia "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_vision").
@iniewski If the insurance companies can be convinced to give reimbursements, then it will be benficial for atleast some people and its a business.
The number of pixels seems rather small. Hope the future versions have better pixel density.
Distant evolutionary ancestors of humans had four types of cones (tetrachromatic). Most birds, many reptiles and some fish still do. Birds tend to see IR in addition to (human) visible spectrum. Some fish extend into UV. Mammals lost two cones, likely when primarily a nocturnal creature, to become dichromatic. In our recent primate evolutionary past, a genetic mutation reintroduced a third cone. *Disclaimer: unless of course we didn't evolve, and a supreme being has simply left a complicated set of physiological puzzles to keep us busy.*
Speaking of interesting thoughts and enhanced vision. Scientists have used gene therapy techniques to give mice, normally dichromats, the ability to see three colors.
I wonder how many people can benefit from this technology. Clearly, not every blind person would be able to take advantage of it...I am surprised there is a business case to build the implant fab", although the fab described in the article is rather small...Kris
I wonder if we will be able to have a picture of what the people with these implants actually see.
Will they see in real color or not? This is directly related with what's mentioned in the above comments in regards the interfacing between electronic connectors and nerves, and the way the electrical signals are conditioned and handled.
I agree, the idea of interfacing electrical signals directly to nerves is quite amazing.
Especially when they talk about how the resolution could be improved in the future, this leads to some very interesting thoughts like could they also expand the range of visible wavelengths into the infrared and ultraviolet regions? I'm not suggesting they should, or that it's a good idea, but it does seem possible -- just a different sensor using the same electrical-to-nerve interface.
Science fiction meets reality.
Its amazing it involves interfacing of tissue/nerve with electronic signal, it would be interesting to know about the kind of connections it will be using. And hope so that it will not result like "PS2" kind of connector.