Aug. 29 - An Israeli company has developed an artificial retina to restore sight to millions blinded by retinal disease. Called Bio-Retina, the implant mimics the function of the natural retina when age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or diseases like Retinosis Pigmentosa take hold. Tara Cleary reports.
This tiny chip could return sight to the blind. It's an artificial retina, developed by Israeli company Nano Retina. Managing director Ra'Anan Gefen says his chip can restore lost function in the eyes of those suffering from retinal degeneration, the condition responsible for most cases of blindness. SOUNDBITE: NANO RETINA MANAGING DIRECTOR RA'ANAN GEFEN SAYING: "We're talking about millions of people affected by this disease and introducing this artificial photoreceptor, artificial retina, will enable them to function again, to see again, to be productive in the society." The chip contains a photovoltaic cell, activated by glasses fitted with a laser energy source. The laser drives the photovoltaic cell to deliver electricity which powers the implant to send images to the brain via the optic nerve, thus replicating the damaged retina functions. Professor Dov Weinberger, head of the Ophthalmology Department at the Rabin Medical Centre successfully performed Bio-Retina implantation surgery in animals. He thinks this technology will bring new hope to thousands of people. SOUNDBITE: PROFESSOR DOV WEINBERGER, RABIN MEDICAL CENTRE, SAYING: "The most important to my opinion, to my idea, the most important part of the eye is the retina. The retina is the film of this camera. And we have to replace it. It's a neurological tissue and as you know neurological tissues are very difficult to replace. This is the first time, or one of the attempts to put new device that functions like, as a retina." It's not the first of its kind, but Nano Retina claims its device offers much improved vision compared to other products. The implant procedure is brief, non-invasive and they say, less expensive than most. . And the company says, patients should have immediate, monochrome sight restoration after a 30-minute procedure. Clinical trials are set for 2014, and if successful, could lead to a new outlook for millions.