Bionic Eye Blends Lasers and Gold
Source: PhysOrg (7/12/11)
"Gold nanoparticles to restore vision to people degenerative eye disease?"
A novel approach to restoring sight using a 'bionic eye' is being investigated at Swinburne University of Technology. The laser stimulation of optic nerves is the focus of this research to develop a vision prosthesis, perhaps a tiny laser device fitted in a pair of spectacles, much like the cochlear implant for restoring hearing.
Swinburne's Applied Optics and Biomedical Engineering Groups are seeking government and philanthropic funding to progress this research using gold nanoparticles to amplify laser light.
These microscopic nanoparticles, fixed to optical nerves and assembled to respond to different laser light wavelength, could become the key to restoring vision to people who have lost their sight through degenerative eye disease.
Gold nanoparticles are being used because gold is inert, biocompatible and has plasmonic or light-responsive properties. The gold nanoparticles can also be fabricated to respond to different wavelengths, making the interface controllable.
"One of the challenges is to develop nanoparticles that are thermally stable," said Professor of Biointerface Engineering Sally McArthur. "While on one hand heat is necessary, it also has to be limited to avoid damaging cells. Laser heat has long been used in medicine to deliberately kill tissue, but in this instance the opposite result is sought."
To measure and control the heat, the Swinburne team is building a molecular thermal sensor to measure how much heat is produced, so it can work out how to control it.
The team's ultimate ambition for its technology is a prosthesis that will restore vision to people who have lost their sight through retinitis pigmentosis or macular degeneration.
"With these diseases the nerve is still alive, making it a strong candidate for a prosthesis," Paviolo said.