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Biotech Science

Bionic Cat Eye Implants Aid Blindness Research 94

Posted by kdawson
from the seeing-the-light dept.
docinthemachine writes with news of felines getting human retinal implants. The cats were afflicted with a version of retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that also blinds humans. The implants are 2-millimeter-wide chips surgically implanted in the back of eye. Each chip's surface is covered with 5,000 microphotodiodes that react to light, sending electric signals along the eye's optic nerve to the brain. The article makes clear that the implants don't allow the cats to see — what they get is impulses of light. The hope is that the electrical activity in the optic nerve will encourage new retinal cells to grow. The article notes: "The chips, which provide their own energy, have shown encouraging results in clinical human trials, in some cases improving sight in people with retinitis pigmentosa or at least slowing the disease's development. Narfstrom said chips have been implanted in 30 people."
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Bionic Cat Eye Implants Aid Blindness Research

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  • Morals (Score:5, Funny)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @05:34PM (#17728932) Homepage Journal
    My cat refuses to use any product or treatment that has been tested on humans.

    -Peter
    • by Ucklak (755284)
      I wonder what the PeTA crowd thinks of this 'experimentation' on cats.

      Actually, who cares what they think.
      In their warped logic, this should be outlawed.
      • by mdm-adph (1030332)
        unless someone high in their organization needs or uses it -- then, expect them to make allowances.
        • by Doc Ruby (173196)
          The people who run PETA are kinda crazy. But do you have any evidence that they're the kind of hypocrites you call them?
          • by Kemanorel (127835)
            The use of bovine insulin by one of their executive officers readily springs to mind.

            Source: Penn & Teller's Bullsh*t episode [imdb.com] on PETA
            • by Doc Ruby (173196)

              The use of bovine insulin by one of their executive officers readily springs to mind.

              Source: Penn & Teller's Bullsh*t episode [imdb.com] on PETA

              I watched one of those _Bullshit_ episodes once, because I was a fan of Penn & Teller in the 1980s, when they were funny and punks (in the late 1990s I had the dubious honor to easily heckle them performing in a backroom at an NYC computer convention, showing how low they'll go). It was loaded with badly sourced, self-serving, cherry picked bullshit: "rebunking" some c

              • Penn's always been pretty open that bullshit is closer to "porn for skeptics" than anything someone should use as a citation. I'd really hope that anyone would take a tv show, no matter who's doing it, with far more gains of salt than even wikipedia.
                • by Doc Ruby (173196)
                  Penn is a punk, like Sid Vicious. Or like Pete Townshend: he's got talent, and uses it to pose as a "magician", "skeptic", or whatever form he's jumping into. Once in the suit, he uses it to attack the instruments and performances of the pros. He's fun, but he's a poser, most dangerous to anyone who takes him too seriously.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Lord_Slepnir (585350)
        I have a perfectly balanced compromise:

        We test this out on PeTA members.

        I'll go get the corkscrews, you get the doctors to put these in.

        • by mcostas (973159)
          You've got it backwards. It's the researchers that are making the assertion that the experimental results are so valuable that they justify harming unwilling individuals. So logically, the researchers should volunteer their children for the experiments. PETA's position would probably be that using cats isn't a necessity. Regardless of how the cat experiment goes, human experiments that follow will still be necessary and not particularly safer.
      • by CapitalT (987101)
        I wonder what the PeTA crowd thinks of this 'experimentation' on cats.


        PeTA? "People for eating Tasty Animals"?
      • by topham (32406)
        If PETA doesn't like it they can volunteer themselves, or their kids for future experiments.

      • by mcostas (973159)
        I believe it's a far more "warped logic" that would have you believe that it's morally acceptable to sacrifice an unwilling individual for the benefit of others (or even the slim potential of marginal benefit, as most animal research produces no tangible benefits) as long as the name of the species is not homo sapiens. Science provides no reason to draw such a magical distinction between humans and other species. Only religious mythology makes such a distinction. If you accept a general utilitarian posit
        • by Ucklak (755284)
          If killing one cow feeds ten people, then so be it.

          PeTA's assertion is to kill ten people to save one cow.

          People who favor PeTA's talking points will state that the cow doesn't need to die in order to feed ten people.

          If you add that there isn't enough veggie food around to feed ten people for the immediate now and killing the cow is neccessary to feed said tem people, I say kill the cow, PeTA says kill the people.

          • You're a troll.

            It takes something like 10 times the land to feed a herd of cows, for beef, then it would to use land to grow vegetables and feed the same number of people.
            • Who cares? Everyone knows PETA are a bunch of deep-ecologist heideggerian neo-fascist ecoterrorists.
              Groups like them that run off of totalitarian, violence-fueled leadership to promote anarchistic ideals should break up and their followers should get a fucking clue about the real problems in the world. People are dying in Iraq. Jesus Christ is killing the nation he "saved". America is slowly becoming a police state. Ganja is still illegal and nobody can give a solid reason why.
              Animals are being exploited be
              • by mcostas (973159)

                Animals are being exploited because we are humans and we exploit resources to live. If we need to exploit resources to live in luxury, so be it.

                You seem confused. Humans are animals. There is no dividing line with homo sapiens on one side and all other species on the other. A dog is far more similar to a human than a dog is to a snake. So talking of "humans vs. animals" is really meaningless.

                Nearly all species of adult mammals are individual sentient beings with a permanent psychoactive state. Even minor details in their brain structures and evolutionary history are shared with humans. Mammals are not "resources" any more than human slaves

                • I don't think it's any more ignorant than letting free that species that will simply take our place. The lioness is no more a tyrant than Man.
                  Also, I think it's more ignorant to abolish the act of killing animals- that is to say, it's more horrifying that in a world where many people are still going hungry, you would remove one of the few sources of protein and lipids from their diet because of some misguided ethical observation that fits in with your world view.
                  First things first, total human liberation. T
    • by lottameez (816335)
      My cat would get her own human retinal samples if she could only figure out how to use a knife.
      • by zobier (585066)
        My cat would get her own human retinal samples if she could only figure out how to use a knife.
        O RLY? [xs4all.nl]
    • by MBCook (132727)

      From the article:

      "The researchers hope is that by finding a way to cure the condition in cats, they will be one step closer to getting regulatory approval to cause the disease for fun since it would them be curable. PETA was unavailable for comment, but the message on their answering machine hinted that they would not look favorably on this idea.:

      Okay, so maybe that's not in the article.

  • by the dark hero (971268) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {oreh_citairda}> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @05:34PM (#17728938) Homepage
    "Resistance is futile." - The Borg
    • To quote the article, "At this point, its impulses of light they're seeing (as opposed to images), but the aim of the research is to get more information out of the chip."

      That's gotta be trippy.

      [J]
  • Oblig (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I for one, welcome our new feline cyborg overlords.
    • by adamlazz (975798)
      And I, for one, would like to bring back a famous John Madden quote, modified to the slightest degree:

      "Now, here's a blind guy, and when he puts in his chip covered with 5,000 microphotodiodes, he can see better."
    • by bubbl07 (777082)
      Uh oh...

      Better start masturbating before they get the rest of our eyes...
    • by greginnj (891863)

      Biophysics? Check.

      Animal experimentation? Check.

      Advanced optics research? Check.

      The Bulletin of Evil Scientists has just advanced the hands on its clock two minutes closer to midnight, as the ultimate goal of Sharks With Fricking Laser Beams appears to be that much closer to realization ...

  • My cats acts like he can't see the food I put in front of him. I think they are scamming the researchers.
    • by kfg (145172)
      My cats acts like he can't see the food I put in front of him.

      Hide it someplace like it's something special you don't want him to get into. It'll be gone in seconds.

      KFG
      • Good idea. I'll either put it on the unstable pile of DVDs on top of the rack or in the jumble of cables behind my computer. I know he's familiar with both places already.
        • by kfg (145172)
          In all seriousness, cats are, by nature, sneaky eaters. They kill something and then drag it off somewhere to feast alone. Eating is not a social event for them. It is something to be done in solitude, where there is a feeling of security.

          Even after millenia of domestication many cats, given their druthers, would still like the food to be behind the couch, not in front of their face.

          KFG
  • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @05:48PM (#17729118) Journal
    I forget the exact quote, but it goes something like:

    Vet: The is squirrel is badly hurt. it will require about $10,000 worth of surgery, plus we have to fly in a special set of instruments from Switzerland.
    George: i see. How much to put the thing down?
    Vet: About 65 cents.
    George: hmm..
    * Georges girlfriend shoots him the evil eye *
    George: Um...just asking

    Maybe I don't get it, but there are hundreds of sighted cats that are put down every day in shelters around the US. How about giving your blind cat the gift of mercy and adopting a new cat?

    NOTE: Poster may be bitter about (1) having a finance whose apartment is infested with a cat and (2) being allergic to the damn things.

    • ... And you are bound to your finance (I assume your Freudian slip was meant to state fiancé) by your own free will. A symphony of small violins for your sympathy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by kfg (145172)
      Poster may be bitter about (1) having a finance whose apartment is infested with a cat and (2) being allergic to the damn things.

      Well then you should have talked her into just shacking up; and if you think you're allergic now, just wait until she becomes a wife.

      KFG
    • Maybe I don't get it, but there are hundreds of sighted cats that are put down every day in shelters around the US. How about giving your blind cat the gift of mercy and adopting a new cat?

      People get attached to the pets they have, not the ones you think they should have. You might as well just s/cat/kid there and see if it holds up as well.

      Oh, and gift of mercy? Blindness isn't a terminal cancer.

      Of course, using a sitcom is clearly the best source material to make a point from....
      • Oh, and gift of mercy? Blindness isn't a terminal cancer.

        The moms and kiddies want a fuzzball kitten to play with, not a quiet older cat who can't see.

        Blindness isn't terminal, but being in the shelter for too long is.
    • Neighbour has a blind, deaf cat he saved from a Vet. He likes being outside, but he's damn hard to find when he wanders off...

      "Here kitty, kitty..."
    • by vertinox (846076)
      Maybe I don't get it, but there are hundreds of sighted cats that are put down every day in shelters around the US. How about giving your blind cat the gift of mercy and adopting a new cat?

      Well the researched and technology gained from these experiments will be helpful to restoring the sight of human subjects.

      Unless you suggest we put old blind grandma down out of mercy too ;)
    • by r00t (33219)
      Seriously, consider the cat to be a deal breaker.

      It'll always be a thorn in your side. It's costly. It can make you sick. It can kill a baby. It will compete with you for attention. It will compete with your kids for attention. It won't go away; it will be replaced with another cat.

    • so....the 65 cents is the cost of the bullet right? :P
    • Step 1: Procure the following herbs (approx. 25 g each):
      i. English thyme
      ii. Hyssop
      iii. Lavender petals
      iv. Damiana leaves
      v. Green tea leaves
      vi. Jasmine petals (fresh)
      Step 2: Bring one quart of distilled water to a boil.
      Step 3: Place the aforementioned herbs in the boiling water and reduce the heat to low.
      Step 4: Simmer on low for 30 min.
      Step 5: Realize that your cat allergy is just a manifestation of your obvious l
  • by silentounce (1004459) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @05:57PM (#17729242) Homepage
    They've hit a snag in the research. It's quite puzzling. They've discovered that the cat can see and is blind at the same time.
    • by Rashdot (845549)
      "They've discovered that the cat can see and is blind at the same time."

      Plus it doesn't know where it is. That's why it's moving around all the time.
  • by Threni (635302)
    > The hope is that the electrical activity in the optic nerve will encourage new retinal cells to
    > grow

    Yeah, I've got a machine which is self aware in my garage. Well, almost. It's got a flashing cursor and it can display pre-defined messages on the screen. The hope is that electrical activity around the CPU area will encourage some kind of cyber almost nearly virtual awareness in the memory banks and will allow it to pass the Turing test.
    • Try hitting it with 1.21 Gigawatts. or a hammer. When you go for the hammer, the screen should read "I can't let you do that, Dave."
  • Nanananananananaaa!

    Actually that didn't work out too well... I had something for a general audience in mind...

  • Remarkable (Score:1, Insightful)

    by lastmachine (723265)
    This together with the earlier post http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/2 3/1640254 [slashdot.org] about growing chains of neurons like an "extension cord" means that we are making huge advances in the soldering analogy with electronics--but in brains. Expect to see "leads" drawn from *specific sites* on brains to pins on processors or storage chips. I, for one, welcome our new overclocked overlords.
  • by Control Group (105494) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:12PM (#17729414) Homepage
    I'm not a neurophysiologist, so perhaps the answer to this is obvious, but I've got a question: if the chip can detect light impulses and stimulate the optic nerve, why does there need to be cellular regeneration? Given time, wouldn't the brain learn to interpret those signals as optical input, just like it did with the rods and cones the eye was born with? Obviously, the "grain" and responsiveness of the photodiodes is much worse than that of the Mark I eyeball, but it's still a path for light information to get to the brain. The resultant "sight" would be far inferior to natural vision, but also better than blindness.

    The human brain is nothing if not adaptable; I would think it could learn to use anything which was able to pump signals onto the optic nerve.

    Or am I way off base?
    • by operagost (62405)
      I would hope they extend the experiment long enough to see that happen, although I fear feline brains may not be sophisticated enough (no offense to my cat or any others out there).
    • by Raindance (680694) * <<johnsonmx> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:00PM (#17730818) Homepage Journal
      I'm not a neurophysiologist, so perhaps the answer to this is obvious, but I've got a question: if the chip can detect light impulses and stimulate the optic nerve, why does there need to be cellular regeneration? Given time, wouldn't the brain learn to interpret those signals as optical input, just like it did with the rods and cones the eye was born with? Obviously, the "grain" and responsiveness of the photodiodes is much worse than that of the Mark I eyeball, but it's still a path for light information to get to the brain. The resultant "sight" would be far inferior to natural vision, but also better than blindness.

      The human brain is nothing if not adaptable; I would think it could learn to use anything which was able to pump signals onto the optic nerve.


      I'm not a neurophysiologist either (perhaps BWJones will chip in here) but here's my two cents.

      The chip can detect light impulses and stimulate the optic nerve, as you say- the article even mentions "We're placing it right where the photoreceptors are and if they're lacking, this is supposed to replace what they're doing." So why isn't this plug-and-play with our eyes- why do we need these implants to work via cellular regeneration?

      Put simply, there is a limit to the eye's plasticity during maturity-- if these cats had been born with these chips implanted in their eyes, they could probably use them to see in some fashion (at lower quality, as you note). However, they're so far out of spec with the type of input given by normal photoreceptors (with which they're currently operating in parallel) that the mature eye/brain calibrated to normal photoreceptors simply tends to screen these inputs out.

      Someday we'll understand the "spec" of the eye well enough for tech that plugs-and-plays with the rest of the eye, but currently we're limited to promoting the body's own healing, or, in cases of total blindness, just bypassing the eye and just stimulating the visual cortex directly (at very low resolution).
    • by Zeek40 (1017978)
      I hope you're right. I can't wait for my thermal vision eye implants :)
  • My ex-wife's mother (what the heck do you call her, an ex-mother-in-law?) - worked at a highly prestigious university studying the optics of cat eyes. Back in the mid-nineties, we knew more about cat eyes through direct experimentation than human eyes, for obvious reasons. (Before you ask, yes, the cats were destroyed humanely during the process.)

    Please keep in mind that there are many levels of clinical trials to go. If you wish to further this type of work, please consider donating your eyes upon you

  • The chips, which provide their own energy


    How the hell do they do that? Self-powering a bioimplant sounds even more exciting than the holy grail of "eyesight to the blind".
    • by operagost (62405)
      Probably a small chunk of radium or something. So they're Radioactive Feline Experimental Cyborgs from Missouri. Might make a fun action show for the kids if we can change Missouri to "Los Angeles" or "Tokyo" or something snazzy.
  • Cat got your...eye? This makes the whole "cats eating your eyes when you die" thing even creepier.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We can rebuild Fluffy, stronger than before, faster, better, able to leap from the floor to the kitchen counter where you're preparing the meat for your dinner in a single bound.

    Oh, and by the way, Fluffy says you can forget about feeding her any more dry food.
  • mememe!!! I want a bionic cat eye implant, where do I sign up?
  • I had a blind cat. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by funwithBSD (245349) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:09PM (#17730182)
    She needed no sight. Before we rescued her she gave birth and raised a litter of kittens. By far she was the most effective killer I have ever seen, snatching bugs and birds out of the air with terrifying accuracy.

    Her downfall was when threatened she never backed down I presume because she could not see where was safest. Stood her ground against pit bull that got loose. She had to be put down because of a broken back. The dog didn't make it either after she gutted his throat arteries.
  • back in the day we'd just give that cat one of those whippy canes and some sunglasses. These modern cats are spoiled.
  • PICTURES (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nilbog (732352)
    The only thing I look for with a story like this is a damn picture. So many stories talk about something I just want to see, but have no picture. Is it lazy journalism? Dammit, I just want to see a cat that looks like a borg, okay?
  • INflicted, to SEE or NOT to see... THAT is the question....
  • by njh (24312)
    Do they just peel them off the road, or what?
  • ...mention both 'bionics' and 'cats', and you'll have an enormous cloud of geeks following your every step.
  • > The implants are 2-millimeter-wide chips surgically implanted in the back of eye.
    > The article makes clear that the implants don't allow the cats to see -- what
    > they get [are] impulses of light.

    Man, and I thought tying a bell to it's tail would make the cat run around crazy! These guys are serious.

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