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See, blind mice: nanowire implants restore visual response

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Chinese scientists have restored visual responses in blind mice by transplanting artificial replacements for light-detecting cells into their eyes. The implants are nanowires made of titanium dioxide coated in gold nanoparticles. When light hits the wires, they generate a a voltage which is passed to neighbouring nerve cells. The mice showed an electrical response in their brains and their pupils contracted on exposure to green, blue and UV light. The implants remained active and stable for up to eight weeks, and could lead to prosthetics to treat human patients one day, say the scientists.

Journal/conference: Nature Communications

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03212-0

Organisation/s: Fudan University, China

Funder: The National Key R&D Program of China, the NSF of China, the Key Basic Research Program of Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality, the Young 1000 Plan and Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China.

Media Release

From: Springer Nature

Helping blind mice see again

Artificial photoreceptors that can restore the visual response in blind mice are reported in a study published online in Nature Communications.

The use of prosthetics to help restore vision could be used to treat degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration, which untreated, leads to loss of vision and blindness. Current prosthesis devices require implanting a light detecting array that detects signals from a video-capture camera.

Jiayi Zhang and colleagues report the development of gold nanoparticle coated titanium dioxide nanowires that function as artificial photoreceptors. The wires generate a voltage when exposed to light, which can then be passed to neighbouring neurons and help restore the visual response in blind mice. The array is able to restore electrical readout and pupil dilation when the mice are exposed to green, blue and ultraviolet light. Importantly, the implant was well tolerated by the mice and stably active for up to eight weeks.

The use of implanted prosthetics to treat degenerative eye diseases could potentially be applied to human patients one day. The work could lead to the design of better prosthetics that do not require external power sources and are capable of colour vision. This could open up new treatment options for people at risk of long-term visual degeneration.

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