Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Image Sensor Implant Restores Partial Sight

Electronics Weekly, BBC News: German firm Retina Implant reported testing results of the chip that has restored limited sight for people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa and similar diseases, destroying only the eye's photoreceptors, and leave its layers of image processing neurons intact.

The chip, which is 3mm across and 50µm thick, has a 70µm pitch 40x40 photodiode array, plus a corresponding electrode array. The implant can both receive images focused by the eye's existing optical system, and inject signals directly into the original neurons. The chip includes signal conditioning, and has to receive power provided along a cable that exits through the side of the eyeball and is led to an inductively coupled power receiver under the skin near the subjects ear. The microchip yields a visual field of about 12°, allowing mobility and object recognition in space.

Thanks to CDM for sending me this news!

Update: EETimes reports that Retina Implant AG has opened a manufacturing plant to meet anticipated demand for its devices. The new manufacturing plant is 312 sq.m and located in Technology Park, Tubingen-Reutlingen, Germany. Of this, about 100 sq.m is for a clean room, with the capability to increase its size to 250 sq.m. The manufacturing capacity is estimated to be 1,500 sub-retinal implants per year and Retina Implant is planning to invest another 1.3M euros to equip the building.

Retina Implant was founded in 2003 by Dr. Eberhart Zrenner and his colleagues in 2003, after extensive research with German university hospitals and institutes which began with a large grant from the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education in 1996. Retina Implant began implanting in human patients in 2005.

Although the vision that results is relatively low resolution it allows mobility and some object recognition in space according to the company. There is the possibility of improving the resolution of implants in the future.


  1. I heard/learnt during a discussion with an (experienced) opthalmologist that many patients with late-stage retinitis pigmentosa (RP) want their vision to go completely "dead"-- than having partial vision. Partial vision,according to him, is extremely annoying and causes much discomfort to the patient.
    In retinal implant approach, large bipolar currents are generally used to excite the neurons, which according to the physician will ultimately damage the functionality of the cell. In his opinion, stem cells and cell engineering may hold the key towards "curing" RP. I do not know if these issues were looked into by this company.

  2. Does anyone know who designed this chip?

  3. I think ims Chips in Stuttgart, with the HDRC technology (log APS).

  4. While the sensor may not be a big deal, the overall system effect is fantastic! It is great to know that the technology we are all working on has a better future than just toxic cellphone landfill.

  5. Can we do reverse, use our eye as image sensor and record video on our cellphone ?


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