Researchers examine use of focused ultrasound technology to stimulate blind retinas


According to estimations of research conducted by Edward Roski Eye Institute and USC Gayle, visual impairment or blindness is expected to occur in more than 8 million Americans by 2050. By 2029, the youngest baby boomers are expected to be 65 years of age, for age-related eye diseases and conditions expected to increase during what is being coined as silver tsunami.

Many of the eye disorders will be related to retinal degenerative conditions, the progressive degeneration of light-sensitive photoreceptors in the retina, say medical experts.

The estimations point at unmet need for new technologies to treat vision loss due to diseases of photoreceptor degeneration.

Currently, there are no proven non-invasive therapeutics for the treatment of vision loss, researchers at USC have devised an idea to address the growing problem.

Opthalmologists currently use electronic technology to directly trigger retinal neurons by placing electrode devices inside the eye, which requires expensive and invasive procedure.

The research team at Department of Biomedical Engineering, Viterbi School of Engineering at USC have explored a non-surgical solution that could restore vision by using another five senses.

Ultrasound Technology – The innovative technology is currently studied on animals that involves using ultrasound stimulation to replace electric stimulation, said one of the research associates.

The technology has advantages as it does not involve surgery and does not involve implanting a device in the body.

To understand working of the technology, how bright spots and shapes appear when the eyeballs are gently pushed with the eyes, applying pressure on the eye activates neurons and sends signals to the brain.

While light activates a normal eye, in the study, blind eyes are stimulated by mechanical pressures produced by ultrasound waves.

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