Scientists Search For Blindness Cure

Pioneering work to tackle two of the most common forms of blindness is being undertaken by Glasgow University scientists.

By employing technology similar to that found in devices like digital cameras, Dr Keith Mathieson hopes to produce an electronic implant for eyes that will help blind people to regain their vision.

Dr Mathieson said: "Blindness is often caused by the light cells at the back of the eye dying off. By implanting a microelectronic device into the eye, we hope we will be able to fool the brain into believing the retina, which converts light into signals that are sent to the brain, is still in working order.

"Advances in microelectronics have allowed us to develop a retinal prosthesis ヨ a small device to be implanted on the retina itself. The device would contain an imaging detector with hundreds of pixels coupled to an array of microscopic stimulating electrodes.

"If light forms an image on the detector, then the result will be electrical stimulation of the retina in the shape of this image.

"The stimulated cells then send the information via the optic nerve to the brain. The imaging part of the system is based upon the technology which is used in any digital camera."

Dr Mathieson, from the University of Glasgow's Department of Physics, is working on the project with Dr James D Morrison from the university's Neuroscience and Biomedical Systems Department. The microelectronic design is being done at the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils by Mark Prydderch

The chip would assist people with age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Around 1million people in the UK are affected by these conditions.

The implant prototype has 100 pixels but the team hope that number will increase significantly as their work progresses.

Dr Mathieson, said: "Around 500 pixels would allow people to walk down the street and recognise faces."

However, Dr Mathieson's work is at an early stage. He said: "We are between five and 10 years from first human implants, so people should not get too excited too early. It is still essentially a research theme, but we are making advances."

He added: "Beyond where we are today it might be possible to make 'smart' chips which have memory in them which would allow action replay and slow motion."

Ends


NOTES FOR EDITORS
For more information or to speak to Dr Mathieson, please contact the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 or email r.mchugh@admin.gla.ac.uk

Ray McHugh (r.mchugh@admin.gla.ac.uk)


For more information or to speak to Dr Mathieson, please contact the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 or email r.mchugh@admin.gla.ac.uk

First published: 11 July 2006

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