Photovoltaic retinal prosthesis for restoring sight to the blind

Daniel Palanker, Yossi Mandel, Keith Mathieson, James Loudin, Georges Goetz, Philip Huie, Lele Wang, Theodore I. Kamins, Richard Smith, James S. Harris, Alexander Sher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness in the developed world, with an incidence of 1:500 in patients aged 55–64, and 1:8 in patients over 85 [1]. Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited disease blinding about 1 in every 4000 individuals much earlier in life [2]. In both of these conditions the photoreceptor layer degenerates, while the inner retinal neurons survive to a large extent [3–5]. Electrically activating these neurons provides an alternative route for visual information and raises hope for the restoration of sight to the blind. In a normal retina, photoreceptors convert light into neural signals that are processed by inner retinal neurons, leading to generation of action potentials in the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). These signals travel to the brain through the optic nerve and serve as the basis for visual perception. Electrical stimulation of the retina with microelectrodes can also produce action potentials in RGCs, creating spatially patterned percepts of light called phosphenes. Indeed, recent clinical trials with retinal prosthetic electrode arrays have restored visual acuity to subjects blinded by retinal degeneration up to 20/1200 using epiretinal placement (facing the ganglion cell side) [6], and up to 20/550 with subretinal implantation [7]. While this serves as an important proof of concept with clinically useful implications, existing retinal prosthesis designs have a number of shortcomings.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Bioelectronics
Subtitle of host publicationDirectly Interfacing Electronics and Biological Systems
EditorsSandro Carrara, Krzysztof Iniewski
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781139629539
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • optoelectronic devices
  • nanotechnology
  • biomedical engineering


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