Blind Mice Given Sight After Device Cracks Retinal Code
2012-08-15 0:00

By Jeanna Smialek | Bloomberg.com




Blind mice had their vision restored with a device that helped diseased retinas send signals to the brain, according to a study that may lead to new prosthetic technology for millions of sight-impaired people.

Current devices are limited in the aid they provide to people with degenerative diseases of the retina, the part of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses to the brain. In research described today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists cracked the code the retina uses to communicate with the brain.

The technology moves prosthetics beyond bright light and high-contrast recognition and may be adopted for human use within a year or two, said Sheila Nirenberg, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and the study’s lead author.

“What this shows is that we have the essential ingredients to make a very effective prosthetic,” Nirenberg said. Researchers haven’t yet tested the approach on humans, though have assembled the code for monkeys, she said.

Once the researchers determined the code the mouse retina used to communicate with the brain, they were able to mimic it with electric-signal sending glasses, Nirenberg said. Previous prosthetics have used less-specific stimulation and proved inherently limited as a result, she said.

About 20 million people worldwide are blind or facing blindness due to retinal degenerative diseases, such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. The disorders cause a progressive loss of the retina’s input cells, or photoreceptors.
Visual Equations

Nirenberg and co-author Chethan Pandarinath first monitored healthy eyes to determine the set of equations that translate light received by the retina into something the brain can understand. Then, they used special glasses to create a similar code and deliver it to the eye, which had been engineered to contain light-sensitive proteins. The cells received the code through the light sensitive proteins and fired electric impulses, which the brain could interpret as images.

Nirenberg’s research “is basically giving vision back to a system that doesn’t work,” said Aude Oliva, a principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who wasn’t involved in the research. “I’ve never seen, and other people have never seen, this quality.”



No foreseeable barriers should stop the movement into humans now that the technology has been created, Oliva said. Nirenberg said that if researchers can come up with adequate cash to fund clinical trials, she hopes to soon adapt the technology.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people older than 55 in the western world and may triple in incidence by 2025 according to a 2009 report by the American Optometric Society. Retinal diseases could find a “reasonable solution” in the technology, said Jonathan Victor, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at Weill who was familiar with, but not involved in the research.

“It’s a major step, it’s elegant, and it works,” he said.


Article from: bloomberg.com





Related Articles
Google’s self-driving car takes blind man to Taco Bell
Why we have blind spots - and how to see the blood vessels inside your own eye! (Video)
UK police to test laser weapon that blinds rioters (Video)
Ancient image of childbirth discovered by blind archaeologist
Blind People ’See’ Shapes, Navigate Using Echoes
Iranians discover blindness gene
Blind could be cured by stem cells grown in contact lenses, claim scientists
Bionics Gives Blind Woman Partial Vision [Video]
Eye Stitches are Terrifying, Kind of Pretty
"Eye Am That I Am" (Eye Of Ra)
Canadian film-maker’s bionic eye (Video)
Laser procedure turns brown eyes blue, scientist says


Latest News from our Front Page

41% of Americans Support Criminalizing "Hate Speech"
2015-05-23 7:31
The following are from a recent poll about what some are calling on for "hate speech" 1. Support for Hate Crimes Legislation Do you support or oppose the federal law that requires increased penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or gender of any person? 2. Support for Expanding Hate Crimes Do ...
FBI Admits No Major Cases Cracked with Patriot Act Snooping Powers
2015-05-23 7:36
FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk ...
Sweetener Stevia Was Once Hailed As An Anti-Fertility Agent for Population Reduction
2015-05-23 7:13
Maybe it's not so sweet now... If you've thought stevia, the natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweetners with aspartame, et al., is too good to be true, there may be a catch. Check out this textbook written in 1970 by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, the precursor to the textbook Ecoscience they wrote with Obama Science Czar John P. Holdren ...
TPP Aproved: Senate Republicans Give Obama New Powers - Details Remain 'Classified'
2015-05-23 6:43
President Obama won a big victory for his trade agenda Friday with the Senate’s approval of fast-track legislation that could make it easier for him to complete a wide-ranging trade deal that would include 11 Pacific Rim nations. A coalition of 48 Senate Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for Trade Promotion Authority late Friday, sending the legislation to a difficult fight ...
Circumcision battle: Mom seeks release from jail after federal lawsuit is dismissed
2015-05-23 3:22
West Boynton mother on Wednesday gave up trying to get a federal judge to stop her 4 1/2-year-old son from being circumcised as his father wishes — a battle that also led to her arrest May 14 on a state court warrant. An attorney for Heather Hironimus, who lost similar legal challenges in two state courts, notified U.S. District Judge Kenneth ...
More News »