Researchers at the IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology), by applying nanotechnology to medicine, have developed a revolutionary artificial liquid retinal prosthesis that has proven as a valid alternative to the already available invasive methods used until now to restore the photoreceptive capacity of retinal neurons.
This new liquid approach, according to the researchers, ensures a faster and less traumatic surgery. The liquid prosthesis method consists of microinjections of nanoparticles directly under the retina, where they remain trapped and replace the degenerated photoreceptors.
As per the collected data, this new method ensures increased effectiveness while preserving the spatial resolution of retinal neurons.
Fabio Benfenati, one of the lead researchers, told the media:
Our experimental results highlight the potential relevance of nanomaterials in the development of second-generation retinal prostheses to treat degenerative retinal blindness and represents a major step forward.
The creation of a liquid artificial retinal implant has great potential to ensure the wide-field vision and high-resolution vision. Enclosing the photoactive polymers in particles that are smaller than the photoreceptors increases the active surface of interaction with the retinal neurons, and allows to easily cover the entire retinal surface and to scale the photoactivation at the level of a single photoreceptor.
This artificial liquid retinal prosthesis can prove revolutionary to counteract the effects of diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. Both the diseases lead to progressive degeneration of photoreceptors of the retina, resulting in blindness.
Currently, the study and results are based on preclinical models. However, the researchers believe that the results are promising, and clinical trials will start soon.