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Organic polymer may lead to better retinal implants

Researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology in Milan are currently working with organic polymer which is a light-sensitive plastic. This new technology may ultimately lead to improved retinal implants. Details of this research are published in the journal Nature Communications. The new organic polymers are softer and have more flexibility than the silicon or platinum which is currently used for the electrodes in the implants currently available. The silicon or platinum components have a tendency to create images of poor quality and can cause retinal scarring. The researchers were able to grow neural cells in a petri dish directly on top of the polymer. By shining light on the polymer, the photodiodes were activated which stimulated individual neurons in the same way that light-sensitive photoreceptor cells in a healthy eye cause neurons to fire. More extensive research needs to be done but researchers are hopeful to not only use this technology to create a better retinal prosthetic but to create artificial color vision for the blind. Elise Ervin Staff Writer

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