Zimmer and Peacock's scientist Dr Andre Fernandez is an author on a recently published paper, where the scientists were developing a next generation implant for patients with degenerative eye conditions.
The device involved an array of microelectrodes where a photosensitive reaction caused a proton gradient that activated individual electrodes within the array, the combination of ON/OFF states within the array produced the final image.
Retinal degenerative diseases are characterized by the loss of photoreceptor cells within the retina and affect 30-50 million people worldwide. Despite the availability of treatments that slow the progression of degeneration, affected patients will go blind. Thus, there is a significant need for a prosthetic that is capable of restoring functional vision for these patients. The protein-based retinal implant offers a high-resolution option for replacing the function of diseased photoreceptor cells by interfacing with the underlying retinal tissue, stimulating the remaining neural network, and transmitting this signal to the brain. The retinal implant uses the photoactive protein, bacteriorhodopsin, to generate an ion gradient in the subretinal space that is capable of activating the remaining bipolar
and ganglion cells within the retina. Bacteriorhodopsin can also be
photochemically driven to an active (bR) or inactive (Q) state, and we aim to exploit this photochemistry to mediate the activity of pixels within the retinal implant. In this study, we made use of a novel retinomorphic foveated image sensor to characterize the formation of active and inactive pixels within a protein-based retinal implant, and have measured a significant difference between the output frequencies associated with the bR and Q states.