The first ultrathin artificial retina in the world was recently tested with success, as the scientists involved in the project reported during the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). According to the researchers, this is the new generation of artificial retina based on very thin 2D materials, including graphene.
“This is the first demonstration that you can use few-layer graphene and molybdenum disulfide to fabricate an artificial retina successfully. Although this research is still in its infancy, it is a very exciting starting point for the use of these materials to restore vision,” said Nanshu Lu, Ph.D. Additionally, Nanshu Lu added, this device can also be used elsewhere in the human body as a sensor for monitoring brain or heart activity.
The retina, located at the back of each eye, is made of photoreceptor cells, known as rods and cones, which transform the light that passes through the eye into nerve signals. Unfortunately, many diseases, including diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, damage the retinal tissue causing vision loss.
Based on 2D materials, including graphene, the new generation of artificial retina might address the issues of the silicon-based retinas
According to Nanshu Lu, the actual models for artificial retina, based on silicon, are rigid and fragile and usually produce blurry or distorted images, leading, eventually, to damages of the optic nerve.
The new generation of artificial retina, developed by Lu and her colleagues, is made of 2D materials such as graphene, molybdenum disulfide, alumina, silicon nitrate, and thin layers of gold to produce a flexible, high-density sensor.
The device was successfully tested in lab simulation and lab animals, and, according to the study’s report, the new artificial retina is entirely biocompatible and mimics the functions of a real retina.
On the other hand, Nanshu Lu and her team are now working to implement this technology in biosensors field, as the device, besides being an artificial retina, might also be used to measure brain or heart activity.