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Restoring Sight with Wireless Implants

From Nature News

The development of retinal implants has been dogged by problems of unwieldiness since the first implantable stimulator for vision restoration was developed in 1968. Sticking a mess of electronics, with wires, cables and inductive coils, into the human visual system was always going to be a tricky business.

James Loudin and his colleagues at Stanford University in California have developed a solution that overcomes many of these problems by the use of special glasses that fire infrared signals into the eye and onto an implanted array of silicon photodiodes. The system simplifies what needs to be implanted and both transmits visual data and power directly to the implants, eliminating the need for any bulky external power source. Their work is published today in Nature Photonics.

In order to explain how the set-up would work, Loudin regularly uses the Star Trek character Geordi LaForge as an analogy. "I'm not well versed in Star Trek any more, and I don't think Geordi had implants," he says. "However, like his visor, our patients cannot see without the goggles."

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