A 24 year old Dphil student and researcher at the Oxford University, Vanessa RestrepoSchild, has developed the first synthetic, soft tissue retina. Prior to this, all artificial retinal research used hard or rigid materials but the young Chemistry student was the first to use biological, synthetic tissues in a laboratory environment.
This revolutionary study can greatly benefit the bionic implant industry and lead to the development of newer but less invasive technologies resembling human body tissues which could help treat degenerative conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa.
The retina is located at the rear of the human eye and contains protein cells that convert light into electrical signals which travel through the nervous system, triggering a response from the brain and thereby creating a picture of the scene being seen.
This new synthetic double layered retina mimics the human retinal process and consists of soft water droplets and biological cell membrane proteins. Moreover, unlike other artificial implants, this new retina’s cell cultures are created from natural, biodegradable materials without any foreign bodies or living entities containing in them. This will prevent risks of adverse reaction in the case of implants while also reducing chances of damage, inflammation and scarring.
Restrepo-Schild has filed a patent for her technology and will now be concentrating on expanding the replica’s function to include color recognition and possibly shapes and symbols as well. In the recent future, research will conduct animal testing and later a series of clinical trials in humans.