Two years ago, a Stanford researcher and his team showed that with a thin, pixelated chip and specially designed glasses, they could restore limited vision in the center of the visual field of patients suffering from macular degeneration.
In a new study, the researchers found that this prosthetic vision naturally integrated with the patients’ peripheral vision, which was unaffected by the disease.
The patients could simultaneously identify the orientations of colored lines in the center and sides of their visual field. The results suggest that the treatment could be used to restore functional vision.
Currently, the prosthetic visual acuity is limited to about 20/460, which allows the patients to see large letters.
The team says to make it a really useful device and applicable to many patients, we need to improve resolution.
Macular degeneration, which affects 200 million people worldwide, most of whom are over 60 years old, causes patients to gradually lose sight in the center of their visual field.
It’s debilitating because the remaining peripheral vision has low resolution. These patients have difficulty reading, recognizing faces and performing other tasks of daily living.
The condition occurs when the photoreceptor cells in the center of the retina, known as the macula, degenerate.
These tightly packed cells, which line the back of the eye, sense light and send signals to other retinal neurons, which transfer them to the brain, allowing visual perception.
When photoreceptor cells degrade, the brain no longer receives the information it needs to create a detailed and coherent picture.
Current treatments for macular degeneration—such as vitamins and drugs targeting blood vessels that invade the macula and block vision—can slow the visual decline.
But they can’t stop the degeneration or restore sight once the photoreceptors are gone.
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The study is published in Nature Communications and was conducted by Daniel Palanker et al.
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