Two of the leading causes of blindness in the Western world have something in common – they affect the cells that 'see' light, but leave the inner retinal neurons, the nerves that process and transmit information from the eye to the brain, intact. Scientists are taking advantage of this by adapting technology usually found in solar panels – photovoltaic cells (left) – for use in damaged eyes. Prosthetic arrays containing hundreds of these light sensitive cells have been successfully implanted into the retina at the back of a pig’s eye (right). When light hits a photovoltaic cell, it generates electricity, which can be picked up and processed by the retinal neurons, allowing the brain to sense the signals as visual information. More cells means more information sent to the brain, which forms a better picture. Researchers hope that this innovation could help overcome loss of vision in the future.
Written by Fred White-Flower
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