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Nanowire arrays of gold and titanium rods and cones in retina restore vision in mice
March 12, 2018
Source: ASM International
Fudan University and the University of Science and Technology of China report that they have cured some forms of blindness by removing defective rods and cones in the retina of mice and replacing them with artificial rods and cones made of gold and titanium nanowires.
The artificial photoreceptors take the form of nanowires studded with tiny gold flakes, which help tune the array to respond to light in the visible range. The wires are surgically implanted in the same space that the photoreceptors once occupied, and they remain in physical contact with retinal cells to pass along electrical impulses to the visual cortex.
The mice in the experiment had been genetically engineered to experience a progressive degradation of their photoreceptors, similar to what happens in people with retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.
Both diseases disrupt the eye’s ability to pass sensory information on to the brain, and can lead to permanent vision impairment if not treated. Crucially, however, the rest of the eye and the brain’s visual processing system remain intact, meaning that visual signals can still be processed if they reach the brain.
The new photoreceptors are responsive to light in the green, blue, and near-ultraviolet spectrum, though their wires cannot grant mice color vision yet. Future tweaks to their method could likely reproduce colors, the researchers say.
They published their research in Nature Communications, Volume 9, Article number: 786 (2018). “Nanowire arrays restore vision in blind mice.” Published online March 6, 2018.
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