Researchers test holographic technique for restoring vision
konknaijaboy | On 28, Feb 2013
Researchers led by biomedical engineering Professor Shy Shoham of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are testing the power of holography to artificially stimulate cells in the eye, with hopes of developing a new strategy for bionic vision restoration.
Computer-generated holography, they say, could be used in conjunction with a technique called optogenetics, which uses gene therapy to deliver light-sensitive proteins to damaged retinal nerve cells. In conditions such as Retinitis Pigmentosa — a condition affecting about one in 4000 people in the United States — these light-sensing cells degenerate and lead to blindness.
“The basic idea of optogenetics is to take a light-sensitive protein from another organism, typically from algae or bacteria, and insert it into a target cell, and that photosensitizes the cell,” Shoham explained.
Intense pulses of light can activate nerve cells newly sensitized by this gene therapy approach. But Shoham said researchers around the world are still searching for the best way to deliver the light patterns so that the retina “sees” or responds in a nearly normal way.
The plan is to someday develop a prosthetic headset or eyepiece that a person could wear to translate visual scenes into patterns of light that stimulate the genetically altered cells.