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Flexible Retinal Implant May Become Reality

Fiction may become a reality in the near future. Many people remember the television show "The Six Million Dollar Man" and the main character, Steve Austin's "bionic" eye. Researchers are trying to develop a flexible retinal implant to restore vision for those suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD occurs when some of the photoreceptors in the eye stop functioning properly. Researchers hope that by using an implant that mimics the photoreceptor layer, they will be able to create an implant that would be able to restore vision. The implant would need to be able to convert a light signal into an electrical pulse which is what a solar cell does. Unfortunately, solar cells are rigid which is not conducive for use inside the eye. The retina is curved so it would require that a large number of rigid chips be fitted in order to approximate the curve of the retina. A flexible implant would eliminate the need of several small rigid implants. Researchers have designed a flexible silicone implant by carving deep grooves into the silicone between adjacent solar cells pixels. The research team conducted their initial trials using retinas extracted from pigs. The team hopes to implant the new device into a live pig soon and then move on to clinical trials in humans. Andrea Schumann Staff Writer

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