'Artificial retina' to restore vision in blind

'Artificial retina' to restore vision in blind

Scientists claim to have developed an 'artificial retina' which could restore near-normal vision to the blind, a finding which can benefit millions.

Researchers made the blind mice see clearly with radical new implant and the creatures' vision could track images and discern features.

This new approach provides hope for the 25 million people worldwide who suffer from blindness due to diseases of the retina.

The researchers say they have also cracked the code for a monkey retina, which is essentially identical to that of a human and hope to quickly design and test a device that blind humans can use.

As drug therapies help only a small fraction of this population, prosthetic devices are their best option for future sight.

"This is the first prosthetic that has the potential to provide normal or near-normal vision because it incorporates the code," Dr Sheila Nirenberg, neuroscientist from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York ,said.

"We can make blind mouse retinas see and we're moving as fast as we can to do the same in humans," Nirenberg, who is honing the technique, said in a statement.

The technique, using high-tech spectacles containing a tiny camera rather than surgery, could be tested on people for the first time in just one to two years.

"It's an exciting time. We can make blind mouse retinas see, and we're moving as fast as we can to do the same in humans," said Nirenberg.

"This has all been thrilling, I can't wait to get started on bringing this approach to patients," she said.

The first beneficiaries are likely to be sufferers of age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in the elderly.

There are few treatments and no cure for the condition which makes it difficult or impossible to carry out everyday tasks such as reading, driving and watching television.
Scientists have already created implantable chips that restore some vision.

But Nirenberg says that her technique produces a much clearer picture. In fact, vision is close to normal.

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