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Scientists Reverse Engineer Animal Brains To Create Bionic Prosthetic Eyes 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-can-rebuild-him dept.
MrSeb writes "Utilizing neuroscience, gene therapy, and optogenetics, a pair of researchers from Cornell University have created a bionic prosthetic eye that can restore almost-normal vision to animals blinded by destroyed retinas. Prosthetic eyes have been created before, but for the most part these have been dumb prosthetics — chips that wire themselves into the ganglion cells behind the retina, which are the interface between the retina and optic nerve. These chips receive optical stimuli (via a CMOS sensor, for example), which they transmit as electrical signals to the ganglion cells. These prosthetic eyes can produce a low-resolution grayscale field that the brain can then interpret — which is probably better than being completely blind — but they don't actually restore sight. The Cornell prosthetic eye however, developed by Sheila Nirenberg and Chethan Pandarinath, is a much closer analog to a real eye, almost completely restoring sight in mice — and within 1 or 2 years, humans (PDF)."
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Scientists Reverse Engineer Animal Brains To Create Bionic Prosthetic Eyes

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  • Art and science constantly seem to follow and build upon the advances of each other. Great ideas... the results of imagineering or "the big, fantastic think," seem to emerge in one to support or catalyze forward motion in the other.

    While I'm not eager to incorporate bioengineering into my person, I also am not a position where my quality of life would be marginally improved by such. I'm confident that my perspective is colored by my current capabilities and would necessarily change if my capabilities were

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      You may not be eager, but for me, I am just sad that this '2 years for humans' probably means more like 10-15 for use on the large/public scale. I could really use this.

    • by jxander (2605655)

      There's a lot more to bioengineering than putting eyes in mice.

      The first wave of these advancements will be to help those lacking sight or hearing, possibly limb replacement, and bringing them up to human standard ... but after that, the sky is the limit. We could go the Lee Majors route and upgrade to long-range telescopic eyes, and immensely powerful arms/legs. Or how about engineering a better lung, that we might either hold our breath underwater for hours at a time, or so that we can better filter the

      • There's a lot more to bioengineering than putting eyes in mice.

        The first wave of these advancements will be [...] bringing them up to human standard

        Woah, woah, hold on there buddy. Are you trying to get Earth demolished to make room for a hyperspace bypass?

        • by slick7 (1703596)

          There's a lot more to bioengineering than putting eyes in mice.

          Why would you want to put eyes in mice? There's already an "i" in mice.

    • Re:Science and Art (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @04:09PM (#41000855) Homepage Journal

      While I'm not eager to incorporate bioengineering into my person, I also am not a position where my quality of life would be marginally improved by such.

      The last half of that sentence is insightful. Would I get invasive eye surgery to get an internet-enabled HUD? Hell no. But I was severely nearsighted all my life, legally blind without my glassses. After my CrystaLens implant (an artificial lens implanted in the eye that focuses naturally, like a young person's eyes) I no longer need corrective lenses, not even reading glasses, and I turned 60 this year.

      If your retina was deteriorated to the point that you were blind, you would indeed be assimilated, just like I was. This is excellent news for a woman I know who used to tend bar at Felbers. Her diabetes and resultant retinal degeneration finally made her unable to work, even as a bartender. This would help her immensely.

      However, I didn't read TFA but I did read about this a day or two ago, and the summary is a lot more optomistic than the FA I read. Of course, it may be the one Google News served up was a stinker and the one linked here is a good one... that happens, sometimes.

      This is the stuff of science fiction... and science.

      At my age, stuff you have been familiar with all your life is science fiction to me. Cell phones, flat screen computers, space shuttles, manned space stations, robots on Mars, space telescopes, even my implant were all science fiction when Star Trek came out. Now, McCoy would be jealous of a modern hospital, Star Trek IV notwithstanding; I mean McCoy on TV, not the movies that came two decades later. And even then, in Star Trek II McCoy gave Kirk reading glasses, when he could have simply transported Kirk's lenses out of his eyes and implanted (via the transporter of course) a pair of CrystaLens. My implant was beyond science fiction in 1982, but approved by the FDA in 2003.

      You young people are going to be amazed at the technology that will be here when you're my age. You will see the impossible happen. You will see stuff that costs millions of dollars today for a couple hundred, and better -- when I was 12 I saw my first computer, a huge building sized thing. Nobody ever imagined that there would be notebook computers far more powerful than anything that existed then in most people's homes and cost a few hundred bucks. Not in a million years did I ever think I'd not only not need glasses, but have better than 20/20 vision.

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        > Would I get invasive eye surgery to get an internet-enabled HUD? Hell no. But I was severely
        > nearsighted all my life, legally blind without my glassses. After my CrystaLens implant (an artificial
        > lens implanted in the eye that focuses naturally, like a young person's eyes) I no longer need
        > corrective lenses, not even reading glasses, and I turned 60 this year.

        With the caveat that others had already done it and the surgery had a very high success rate (or at least a very low "oops you are bl

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Sorry to hear about your mom. I had to have surgery for a detached retina as well, but I got lucky there, too. I wound up with slightly better vision after my vitrectomy simply because all the floaters were gone.

          I haven't heard of the silicone thing before, what they did for my detachment was to replace the vitrious with nitrogen gas, and I had to keep my head down for a week and a half afterward until the nitrogen was replaced naturally with new fluid.

          Neither surgery was exactly fun, although neither was p

      • At the rapidly accelerating rate of fascism in the US and elsewhere (written on the eve of the British government invading the Ecuadorian embassy), the only high tech us proles will experience will be the tools of oppression; the cool tech - bio included - will be reserved soley for the 1% power elite.
  • by Halo1 (136547)

    Shouldn't we have to invent the VISOR before we start creating prosthetic eyes?

    • I don't see why we should. I think they made it apparent in Star Trek that Giordi had a peculiar condition that made the fictional conventional cures for blindness impossible/unappealing..

      • Re:VISOR (Score:5, Funny)

        by localman57 (1340533) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:04PM (#41000067)
        Yes, I think they said he had "Optical PlotDeviceocis".
      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        I don't see why we should. I think they made it apparent in Star Trek that Giordi had a peculiar condition that made the fictional conventional cures for blindness impossible/unappealing..

        Yeah, reversing the polarity of his eyes was probably an unappealing option.

    • RTFA - or just skim the pretty picture at the bottom. The initial implementation will be a "visor" (ok glasses, but I'm sure the newly sighted cosplayers will go nuts) that holds the camera equipment and beams the info to the back of the eye (which has been genetically altered to receive the information).

      But I think the VISOR went directly into the brain, not the eyeballs.

  • Take Note (Score:3, Funny)

    by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:58PM (#41000017) Journal

    I would like mine with a HUD, infrared/night vision, and 50x zoom.

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      I would like mine with a HUD, infrared/night vision, and 50x zoom.

      On the other hand .. I am blind in one eye due to a retinal problem. I'd be happy just to have normal vision again in that eye. And I bet so would every other person who has some sort of blindness. So I was excited to see this.
       
      On the other hand the very idea of retinal surgery always scares the hell out of me.

      • by Githaron (2462596)
        Why does it scare you if you are already blind?
        • by OzPeter (195038)

          Why does it scare you if you are already blind?

          The image in my mind that in order to perform the surgery they have to pull my eyeball out of my head.

          Plus I am not 100% blind in that eye .. just the critical central vision. So if things go wrong I could lose the rest of my vision in that eye. Its thoughts like this that dissuade me from using contact lenses as there is a small chance that you can get an infection in your eye from them that could cause more vision loss (yes I know its small but it it still exists).

          • I also have lost central vision in one eye, though my good eye is headed that way as well. In any case, the procedure for this technology is just gene therapy. It does involve sticking a needle into your eye, so I'm not thrilled about having it done, but there's no knife involved. You have at least three kinds of very important cells in your retina. Rods and cones are the ones most people know about, but ganglion cells in your retina are required to pass signals from rods and cones to your optic nerve.

        • by Khashishi (775369)

          surgery isn't scary?

    • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:49PM (#41000587)

      That was my first thought.

      Okay. These researchers figured out the coding sequence for the retina/nerve interface. Basically they figured out TCP/IP for your eyes. And they designed an "honest" retina that mimics a regular retina.

      I'll stop there for a moment and say WOW. Nicely done, absolutely thoroughly amazing.

      But then let's up the ante and have the circuitry they are using employ infrared detection. [wikipedia.org] Not too difficult to do, we've been making these kinds of devices for many decades. And the same goes for a x50 zoom. Easy peasy.

      A HUD display would be possible too. Watch the TED lecture at the bottom of the article. This lady KNOWS THE ENCODING that your eyes use! She can actually take the pulses transmitted to the brain and solve them backwards to see what you were looking at! With that kind of knowledge making something that transmits a generated image would be simple.

      This is a *gigantic* breakthrough.

      • The only catch is you need to pluck out a physical eye in order to get the upgrade. No catch at all for blind people I guess, but maybe I want cyborg eyes too! Perhaps I could just get one done, like Warden Dios, that guy rocked harder than heavy metal.

  • Ok... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928)

    Now tell me how we could have simulated this and tested it in a computer model, PETA guys.

    *crosses arms and taps foot*

    --
    BMO

    • Re:Ok... (Score:4, Informative)

      by mikael (484) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:16PM (#41000189)
      • by bmo (77928)

        Nope, not good enough.

        It's one thing to simulate a brain in a box with a large enough neural network. It's entirely something different to simulate all the biochemical reactions and physiology *and* be able to hook up your bionic eyeball to it and test it in real world (for as much a lab is real world) conditions.

        --
        BMO

        • by Desler (1608317)

          And your evidence that it couldn't be done is what exactly? Just because you say so is not evidence.

        • by h4x0t (1245872)
          Well BMO, if we did all that, then we should still feel bad for cutting into it.

          Pain, love, virtue... all brain chemistry.
    • by c (8461)

      > Now tell me how we could have simulated this and tested it in a computer model, PETA guys.

      Uh... you do realize that animal rights extremists don't give a shit about people (except, probably, themselves). Their preferred scenario is the extinction of the human race and all animals returning to the idylic pre-human environment documented by Disney's Lion King.

      So PETA would prefer that people go/stay blind than have their eyes fixed via animal research.

    • Now tell me how we could have simulated this and tested it in a computer model, PETA guys.

      I'm not PETA but why wouldn't we be using humans for these experiment? Ohh to grotesque? Too inhumane?

      • by Jeng (926980)

        I'm not PETA but why wouldn't we be using humans for these experiment? Ohh to grotesque? Too inhumane?

        Humans have legal rights and can sue when experimented on, even when they sign on the dotted line.

  • . . .seem to see things thou dost not.
  • by maroberts (15852) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:07PM (#41000091) Homepage Journal

    My jaw dropped in amazement. The fact the technique is extensible to other sensory and brain malfunctions seems to be just icing on the cake.

    • My jaw dropped in amazement. The fact the technique is extensible to other sensory and brain malfunctions seems to be just icing on the cake.

      Eureka, now we can actually create penis enlargement technology! It would be fully customizable and detachable! A baker could even have theirs eject delicious icing all over your cake!

  • by 0racle (667029) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:21PM (#41000251)
    Obligitory XKCD [xkcd.com]
  • I want the eyes that Judge Dredd got when his eyes got damaged.

    Ability to see from deep in the microwave to high UV.
    Micro and telescopic lens function
    Access to information (like Google's glasses)

    And I think targeting interface to his Law Giver if I'm not mistaken.

    • Just curious, what does UV vision do for you? I get IR vision.

      • A lot of flowers have UV markings that insects can see. He'll be able to determine which blooms have the best nectar reserves.

        In WWII, UV lights were used to signal to boats offshore - they made sure to take someone who'd had their cataracts removed along, because it's the lens that filters out the UV light. In a similar vein, bomber crews liked to carry someone with red/green colour blindness, because they could see right through common forms of camouflage.

        Who knows what UV light could show you... well, ap

      • by the_B0fh (208483)

        The other two comments give you a good reason, but the biggest reason is this: *why not* ?

        if you are building something, why artificially limit yourself, especially since in cases like this, you might not want them to go back and "upgrade" it later...

  • Can I get one right on the back of my head?

    Oh, and one on each foot, facing upwards. Just in case.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      There shouldn't be any major obstacles to any of those once a video stream can be injected. We are already fully capable of transmitting video from a shoecam or back of the headcam to a receiver placed at the face.
  • "Blue. Tally Isham blue. The clear trademark blue they're famous for, Zeiss Ikon ringing each iris in tiny capitals, the letters suspended there like flecks of gold."
  • by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:47PM (#41000573)
    "If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes!"
  • by na1led (1030470) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:58PM (#41000723)
    Now you can see what I mean!
  • Zombie movies have ruined me for life. I read the headline and now all I can think about is a bunch of scientist shuffling through a lab screaming "BRAINS!!!".

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