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Lab engineers develop microelectronics for artificial retina project

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory engineers are developing a microelectrode array for a multi-laboratory DOE project to construct an artificial retina or "epiretinal prosthesis."

LLNL's polymer-based microelectrode array.

The three-year DOE project brings together national labs, universities and a private company, with Oak Ridge serving as the lead laboratory.

An epiretinal prosthesis could restore vision to millions of people suffering from eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration or those who are legally blind due to the loss of photoreceptor function. In many cases, the neural cells to which the photoreceptors are connected remain functional.

Project leader Dr. Mark Humayun, of the University of Southern California, has shown that electrical stimulation of the viable retinal cells can result in visual perception. These findings have sparked a worldwide effort to develop a retinal prosthesis device.

Expertise in biomedical microsystems at Lawrence Livermore's Center for Microtechnology is being tapped to develop a "flexible microelectrode array," able to conform to the curved shape of the retina, without damaging the delicate retinal tissue, and to integrate electronics developed by North Carolina State University. The device will serve as the interface between an electronic imaging system and the human eye, directly stimulating neurons via thin film conducting traces and electroplated electrodes.

"We're very excited to be a part of this collaboration," said Peter Krulevitch of the Lab's Center for Microtechnology and leader of the team developing the flexible microelectrode array. Other LLNL team members include LLNL employee and UC Davis graduate student Mariam Maghribi, fabrication technician Julie Hamilton, participating guest Dennis Polla, undergraduate summer student Armando Tovar from Trinity University, MIT graduate student Christina Park, engineer Courtney Davidson and scientist Tom Wil
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Contact: Don Johnston
johnston19@llnl.gov
925-423-4902
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
4-Dec-2002


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