Restoration of Sight with Photovoltaic Subretinal Prosthesis


Daniel Palanker

(Stanford University)

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Date: March 5, 2014


Retinal degeneration leads to blindness due to gradual loss of photoreceptors. Information can be reintroduced into the visual system by patterned electrical stimulation of the remaining retinal neurons. Photovoltaic subretinal prosthesis directly converts light into pulsed electric current in each pixel, stimulating the nearby inner retinal neurons. Visual information is projected onto the retina by video goggles using pulsed near-infrared (~900nm) light.
Subretinal arrays with 70μm photovoltaic pixels provide highly localized stimulation: retinal ganglion cells respond to alternating gratings with the stripe width of a single pixel, which is half of the native resolution in healthy controls (~30μm). Similarly to normal vision, retinal response to prosthetic stimulation exhibits flicker fusion at high frequencies (20-40 Hz), adaptation to static images, and non-linear summation of subunits in the receptive fields. In rats with retinal degeneration, the photovoltaic subretinal arrays also provide visual acuity up to half of its normal level (~1 cpd), as measured by the cortical response to alternating gratings. If these results translate to human retina, such implants could restore visual acuity up to 20/250. With eye scanning and perceptual learning, human patients might even cross the 20/200 threshold of legal blindness. Ease of implantation and tiling of these wireless modules to cover a large visual field, combined with high resolution open doors to highly functional restoration of sight.

Further Information:

Daniel Palanker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and in the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory at Stanford University. He received PhD in Applied Physics in 1994 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Dr. Palanker studies interactions of electric field with biological cells and tissues in a broad range of frequencies: from quasi-static to optical, and develops their diagnostic, therapeutic and prosthetic applications, primarily in ophthalmology. Several of his developments are in clinical practice world-wide: Pulsed Electron Avalanche Knife (PEAK PlasmaBladeTM), Patterned Scanning Laser Photocoagulator (PASCALTM), and OCT-guided Laser System for Cataract Surgery (CatalysTM). In addition to laser-tissue interactions, retinal phototherapy and associated neural plasticity Dr. Palanker is working on electro-neural interfaces, including Retinal Prosthesis, electronic control of vasculature and of the glands.

Created: Wednesday, March 5th, 2014