TEL AVIV, Israel, March 23 (UPI) -- Israeli scientists say they are researching technology that might someday result in bionic retinal implants that can restore sight to vision-impaired people.
Tel Aviv University Professor Yael Hanein says she has completed foundational research that may merge retinal nerves with electrodes to stimulate cell growth. The research, she said, has so far been successful in animal models.
"We're working to interface man-made technology with neurons," Hanein said. "It can … (provide) an understanding of how neurons work so we can build better devices and drugs."
She's developed a spaghetti like mass of nano-sized carbon tubes, and using an electric current has managed to coax living neurons from the brains of rats to grow on the man-made structure. The growth of living cells on the nano substrate is a very complicated process, she said, but they adhere well to the structure, fusing with the synthetic electrical and physical interface.
Using the new technology, graduate student Mark Shein has been observing how neurons communicate and work together.
"Neurons like to form good links with our special nanotechnology, and we're now investigating applications for retinal implants," Hanein said. "Our retinal implant attempts to replace activity in place of the damaged cells and, in the case of retinal diseases, the damaged photoreceptors."
The research was recently reported in the journal Nanotechnology.