Scientists have restored the light-sensitivity of eyes in blind mice using gold and titanium dioxide nanowire arrays.
Identifying the major challenges in the use of prosthetic techniques to restore sight lost from conditions such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, the researchers – from Fudan University and the University of Science and Technology of China – set out to create artificial photoreceptors.
Both of these sight conditions involve degeneration of the retina, preventing its natural function as a photoreceptor.
Semiconductor nanowire arrays – such as the gold and titanium dioxide structure used in the experiments – have the potential to act as artificial photoreceptors as they exhibit “high surface areas, large charge transport mobility, excellent biocompatibility and stability”, according to the research.
Where the artificial photoreceptor was used in the blind mice, responses to visible light was restored – up to a certain level – with aspects of the nervous system connected to sight also responding to light using the implant. The study also noted that there was a ‘functional preservation’ of the remaining retinal circuits in the eyes.
The researchers noted that the implants worked without the need for trans-ocular bales or power supplies, and that aspects of the nanowire arrays could operate alongside the retinal circuits within the eye needed to enable the restoration of sight.
The study could pave the way for further research to be carried out on the potential for the material to be used on sight prosthetics.