Ultra-thin Artificial Retinas: An Invention For The Visually Impaired

Our world is getting modified constantly at present thanks to the advancement in technology which is also affecting our lives to a great extent. The healthcare industry is also not an exception to this where the healthcare process is getting influenced by various platforms including the cloud, electronic health records, patient portals as well as smartphone apps. And it is quite evident that this trend is going to continue in the upcoming days. As a matter of fact, innovative technologies are being constantly developed by a number of researchers at present which has the potentiality to alter the healthcare scenario in the near future. In the following paragraphs, we have mentioned one such invention in the healthcare industry in recent times which happens to be the discovery of the first artificial retina on the planet.
Retinal diseases

Retinal ailments can be defined as those conditions affecting our retina which happens to be a layer of tissue at the rear portion of our eyes. This retina consists of nerve cells which are capable of receiving visual information and dispatching them to our brain as well.

Ailments impacting the retina can lead to serious eye problems which might include even the loss of our sight particularly if they are left untreated over time.

One of the most common retinal conditions can involve the retina getting detached from the eyes resulting in eyesight issues all of a sudden like dots in the vision or flashing lights. In other cases, individuals can suffer from diabetic retinopathy where there is a deterioration of the blood vessels at the back of our eyes. Another retinal condition affecting the aged people, in particular, happens to be macular degeneration in which case there is a deterioration of the center of the retina resulting in blurry central vision.

Despite the fact that it seemed almost impossible to make artificial retinas several years back, at present we have witnessed an upgrade on artificial retinas out there.
In fact, the patients will be able to gain access to an innovative version of artificial retinas that have been manufactured from 2D materials and this has taken the healthcare industry by storm.

It is a fact that the researchers are becoming increasingly interested in the production of human body spare parts which can prove to be a surefire solution to various types of health- related issues. Attempts are already being made to develop organs like the kidney and the liver while the most significant of them happens to be the lab-grown brain.

Nevertheless, we can definitely expect the artificial retinas which have been invented not long ago and are made from 2D materials to take the present visualization technology to an entirely new level and thus help numerous folks struggling with retinal disorders in restoring their sights.
Scientists from South Korea’s Seoul National University as well as the University of Texas based in Austin, US have been able to develop the first ultrathin artificial retina on the planet which is endowed with the ability to improve the visualization technology for the blind successfully.

This stuff which has been made from flexible 2D materials is capable of restoring the eyesight of numerous patients suffering from retinal ailments.

One of the creators of the artificial retina happens to Dr. Nanshu Lu who is incidentally a researcher at the University of Texas located in Austin. According to her, this has demonstrated for the first time that it is feasible to use molybdenum disulfide and graphene effectively for producing artificial retinas. Dr. Lu further added that this research is undoubtedly in the preliminary stage when it comes to using these materials successfully for restoring eyesight.

Even though retinal ailments like diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration might not have any cure, it is a fact that the retinal implants which are silicone-based have been able to restore the eyesight of some individuals to a certain extent. Nevertheless, according to Lu, these devices happen to be flat, fragile, as well as rigid and therefore it is quite difficult for them to mimic the retina’s natural curvature. This can result in the retinal implants which are silicone-based generating distorted images that can lead to long-term damage to the adjoining eye tissues.

Dr. Nanshu Lu together with Dae-Hyeong Kim, her collaborator who comes from the Seoul National University intended to produce a more flexible and thinner substitute for the existing retinal devices which will be able to imitate the natural function plus shape of a retina in a better way.

Both of them made use of 2D materials consisting of molybdenum disulfide and graphene along with thin layers of alumina, gold as well as silicone nitrate for producing the high- density and flexible sensor technology. The retina has the ability to mimic the surface of the football when it is in the flattened condition and can also conform to the shape and size of a natural retina effectively without the influence of any medicine whatsoever.’

While the device is being tested, light is going to be absorbed by photodetectors and is passed by them via an external circuit board which consists of all the necessary electronic items for processing the light digitally, stimulating the retina and also receiving signals from the visual cortex. It was concluded by the scientists that the superficial retina prototype happens to be biocompatible and it likewise imitates all the structural features of a human eye successfully. They were of the notion that it would play an important role when it comes to the development of the subsequent generation of bio-electronic retinal prostheses.

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According to the researchers, the device might likewise be utilized for monitoring the brain as well as heart activity effectively in the future; however, some modifications may be required for achieving this.

At present, Dr. Lu is trying to find out different methods for integrating this technology into optically and mechanically imperceptible electronic tattoos which are laminated on the surface of the epidermis for obtaining real-time information regarding our health. She also contemplates on including transistors with the intention of helping the transparent e-tattoos in amplifying signals coming from the heart or the brain so that it is possible to monitor and treat them easily. These electrodes and sensors can likewise be implanted on the heart’s surface for detecting arrhythmias. She is of the notion that these can be programmed by the physicians to function like tiny pacemakers.

Let us hope that further studies will continue regarding artificial retina consisting of graphene, and this will help to add yet another superpower in the field of healthcare which is restoring eyesight to people who are visually impaired.