Press Release Date: March 12, 2014
The journal ‘Nano Letters’ recently published a proof of concept study detailing how a revolutionary new material could be used to help activate neurons in the brain to respond to light without the use of an external source of energy.
The research team which was led by Dr. Yael Hanein, a Professor in Tel Aviv University’s School of Electrical Engineering believes that their new material, which involves the use of nanotechnology, will in the future be able to assist in the restoring of sight to patients whose retinas have been damaged by a number of diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the condition responsible for the majority of central vision loss worldwide.
The rapidly growing field of Nanotechnology allows for the manipulation of matter on a molecular scale to form new materials that posses remarkable range of highly varied properties. Presently a number of other research teams are working on the development of implant devices that can "see" light and transmit visual input to the brain therefore minimizing the effects of AMD as well as other diseases that can cause vision loss. According to Prof. Hanein, who additionally heads the University’s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology their newly developed device is more efficient, flexible, and more effectively stimulates neurons.
In the future this revolutionary material has the potential to ultimately replace damaged retinas with a light receptive, flexible film constructed from a combination of carbon nanotubes and semiconducting nanorods. The artificial retina material was tested by the researchers on the retinas of chicks which were not yet light-sensitive, during which it was demonstrated that it could cause brain cells to react to light stimulation. The Israeli team believes that people afflicted with AMD, usually those over 60 years old are likely to be the first group to benefit from the new technology if animal testing demonstrates that it is viable for long term use.
“The possibilities for new medical techniques that the field of nanotechnology offers is seemingly endless, with highly talented researchers around the world looking at a widely varied range of new material construction techniques, each of which offers the prospect of solving medical conditions in safer, less invasive ways. The work on replacement retina materials at TAU is a standout example of this and while still in its early stages holds out hope to the large number of people affected by AMD” stated V.P of Corporate Development for ESNano Tech, Alison Stansfield.
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