Secretary Abraham announces next steps for artificial retina project

LOS ANGELES Today, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham toured the University of Southern California's ophthalmology laboratories at the Doheny Eye Institute and heard from the national research team that hopes to restore vision to millions of people with blindness caused by retinal disorders. As a result of recent breakthroughs in science and engineering technology, Abraham announced that DOE will commit $9 million over three years to augment artificial retina research, including support for a laboratory within the Doheny Eye Institute on the USC campus.

The DOE national labs, partnering with the University of Southern California and North Carolina State University, are designing a micro-electronic device that would be implanted in the eye on the surface of the retina. A microelectrode array would perform the function of normal photoreceptive cells.

"Restoring vision to patients with retinal disorders is the truly marvelous goal of this team of researchers," said Secretary Abraham before an audience on the campus of USC. "That the unique resources of government laboratories are helping to meet this goal is another demonstration of their benefit to the Nation. We are always looking for areas in which our interdisciplinary strengths can be leveraged to revolutionize areas of science, engineering and technology, and to improve quality of life for millions of people."

The artificial retina could help those blinded by age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa where neural wiring from the eye to brain is intact, but the eyes lack photoreceptor activity. The artificial retina is a device that captures visual signals and sends them to the brain in the form of electrical impulses. The device is a miniature disc that contains an electrode array that can be implanted in the back of the eye to replace a damaged retina. Visual signals are captured by a small video camera in the eyeglasses of the blind person and processed through a

Contact: Jeff Sherwood
DOE/US Department of Energy

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