These surgeons are carrying out the painstaking process of inserting a retinal implant – a tiny electronic sensor that’s a bionic vision system for the blind. These devices work by capturing light information and converting it into electrical signals which travel down the optic nerve to the brain, where they’re interpreted as images. It sounds like a sci-fi solution for sight loss, but there are several limitations. Because retinal implants rely on the nerves from the eye still being intact, they aren’t suitable for all types of blindness. The resolution is also very low – several hundreds of pixels compared to the many thousands that would be needed to recognise a face. Today’s implants are still a long way from fully restoring sight, although they enable people to perceive shapes and shadows. But as technology improves and more pixels are added, there’s hope that a clearer picture will emerge from the darkness.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.