Could an Implant Be Developed to Help Restore Sight?

A team of researchers are working on an implantable device that would communicate with an external control module and glasses.

Image courtesy of Leti

Scientists from a biomedical research consortium could help a U.S. government funded program aiming to restore sensory perception. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) established the Neural Engineering System Design program (NESD) to encourage development of “an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world,” according to DARPA’s Web site.

DARPA has awarded six NESD contracts, one of which was given to CorticalSight, a program by the Seeing and Hearing Foundation (Fondation Voir et Entendre; FVE) under the leadership of Prof. José-Alain Sahel and Dr. Serge Picaud. CorticalSight is currently working to enable communication between neurons in the visual cortex and a camera-based, high-definition artificial retina worn over the eyes, reports CEA Leti, a partner of FVE. Leti and Clinatec (Leti’s biomedical research center and its Leti partners) will develop an active implantable medical device intended to restore vision through light stimulation of optogenetically modified neurons in the visual cortex interface.

“Clinatec’s integrated approach to high-tech, medical-device R&D, extending from Leti’s technological development to in-house clinical expertise and testing capabilities, allows our teams to address cutting-edge medtech development challenges,” stated Prof. Alim-Louis Benabid, Clinatec’s chairman of the board, and co-investigator of the CorticalSight project, in a news release. “This contribution to the CorticalSight consortium will pave the way to new therapeutic devices for vision restoration thanks to the NESD program.”

CEA Leti will develop the external control module and the implantable parts, including the optical microsources, explained Fabien Sauter-Starace, project manager, active implantable medical devices, at Clinatec, to MD+DI.

One of the external parts is a set of goggles to be worn over the eyes, also called a “smart neuromorphic camera on glasses,” Sauter-Starace said. (Please see the  above image.)

These glasses “will capture the image and communicate with the external control module developed by CEA Leti. The latter will provide power and data to the implantable modules,” he said.

Leti will also develop hermetic packaging and radiofrequency links for the implantable system and will conduct technical test benches.

Leti was created in 1967 as the Laboratoire d’Electronique et de Technologie l’Informatique. In 1976, it created and installed the first whole body X-ray scanner at the Grenoble General Hospital. Over the years it has developed various electronics for multiple industries.

Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of MD+DI. She previously served as executive editor of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News, which serves as the pharmaceutical and medical device channel of Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered medical device manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues as well as pharmaceutical packaging and labeling for more than 20 years. She is also a member of the Institute of Packaging Professionals's Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee. Follow her on Twitter at @daphneallen.


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