One of the hopes of bionics is to restore vision to people who have suffered eye injuries or certain diseases. An Israeli company, NanoRetina, has created a microchip that could be available within just two years. It’s smaller than a grain of rice.
In western countries, it’s estimated that close to seven million people suffer from blindness or vision problems as a result of different diseases or injuries. Many of their hopes lie in devices that are being developed in the field of bionics. This technological field is aimed at developing systems that can alleviate many of the visual problems of these people.
As we said some time ago in Think Big, there are several initiatives that are aimed at creating a bionic retina that is fully functional and compatible with the human eye. One of the most famous, the Argus II, is already being tested in people with retinitis pigmentosa. Its application in the US appears to confirm the positive results obtained in the initial tests.
Scientists in Israel are also working on bionic retinas to restore sight to people who have suffered an injury or disease. The chip developed by NanoRetina is one of the most revolutionary in the world because it is smaller than a grain of rice. It could be implanted in people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, like the Argus II bionic retina, but could also be used by patients with age-related macular degeneration.
The pre-clinical trials done so far on pigs have validated the system offered by NanoRetina, and although it can’t be used with those who are blind from birth or who have suffered a direct injury to the retina, this microchip does offer an incredible resolution of 600 pixels.
Israeli scientists believe that this sophistication is sufficient, because the human eye is capable of sight starting at 250 pixels. However, people with the NanoRetina device will only be able to see large letters and will not be able to drive, because the resolution is insufficient.
Another technological challenge that remains to be resolved in this NanoRetina is the possibility of vision in colour. The model tested in pigs only provides vision in black and white. For the human prototype, the company hopes that the NanoRetina will be able to offer at least greyscale vision. The microchip that will be tested in people with vision problems will be available in just two years.
According to the Israeli company, the final price of the NanoRetina bionic device has been estimated at around 2,000 dollars. Although it must still pass clinical testing in humans before it can be marketed, this is great news for people with vision problems. Another example of how technology can help medicine in many aspects.