Invention: Vision amplifier
* 13:20 22 December 2008 by Justin Mullins
* For similar stories, visit the Invention and Mental Health Topic Guides
The number of people suffering seriously impaired vision due to damaged retinas is increasing in the developed world, as populations age and diabetes becomes more common. The search for a technological solution to the problem has led to growing interest in "bionic eyes".
Devices developed so far have usually involved installing a silicon chip into the eye to electrically stimulate the retina's nerves in response to light. Some impressive results have been achieved in this way, but implanted chips do have drawbacks.
Their relatively large size means they block light that would have fallen on healthy parts of the retina and they can also cause tissue damage, such as tearing.
So Jeffrey Olsen at the University of Colorado Hospital has come up with another method entirely – amplifying the light that reaches the retina using the eye's still functioning light-sensitive cells.
Microscopic specks of semiconductor material injected into the retina can make the image a person sees brighter, a new patent application claims (Image: Wipo)