A three-year project will design the next generation of retinal implants using graphene-based electrodes to provide artificial vision to patients blinded by retinal degeneration.
“The goal of the i-VISION project is to develop a retinal prosthesis technology capable of providing high-acuity artificial vision to people blinded by outer retina layer diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. In Spain, over 15,000 and 700,000 people are affected by retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, respectively (1).
In spite of the progressive degeneration of photoreceptor cells caused by these retinal diseases, the neurons responsible for conveying information to the brain remain alive. Retinal prosthesis systems process images of the outside wold recorded by a camera and stimulate these neurons by means of electrodes to re-create vision. However, the quality of restored vision in current retinal prostheses is quite limited.
The electrode material interfacing with retinal neurons will be based on graphene, a nanomaterial that will enable the use of more and smaller high-performing electrodes capable of bidirectional (recording and stimulation) communication with the retina.
The microelectronics of the prosthesis will implement closed-loop adaptive stimulation strategies and novel wireless technology to power the implant and transmit the electrical stimulus. Advanced in vitro and in vivo imaging and recording techniques will be used to create a personalised map of retina-visual cortex interconnectivity, and thereby optimize the visual acuity restored by the retinal prosthesis.
This work is the follow up of the THEIA project, under which the ICN2, IFAE, ICFO and Barraquer Ophthalmological Center set the basis of this new generation of retinal prostheses with the funding of two successive BIST Ignite grants. The developed technology is expected to provide immediate benefits to retinal prosthesis patients, and may later serve as a standard bearer for the much broader field of neuroprosthetics.