Protein-Based Artificial Retinas
LambdaVision is developing an innovative artificial retina for those afflicted with retinal degenerative diseases. The artificial retina utilizes the light-activated protein, bacteriorhodopsin, to restore functional sight to those who would otherwise be blind due to retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Using proteins similar to the visual pigment rhodopsin that is naturally found in our eyes, LambdaVision’s artificial retina mimics the light-absorbing properties of photoreceptors and is capable of activating neural cells still present in degenerated retinas of blind patients.
Electrode-based implants have achieved some success, however, the designs lead to low resolution and require external hardware to transmit and manipulate the incoming signal. LambdaVision’s artificial retina has the potential for far greater resolution as it is powered by incident light and does not require any external power supplies or bulky hardware on or outside the eye. It is also being designed to work for anyone impacted by retinitis pigmentosa regardless of genotype.
The artificial retina is developed through a layer-by-layer production process that ensures the artificial retina is dense enough to absorb appropriate amounts of light. The artificial retina is made up of alternating layers of the protein bacteriorhodopsin and a polymer, supported by a membrane of a synthetic fiber that has long been used by the medical community. The final product contains highly oriented layers of bacteriorhodopsin, and upon light absorption, a unidirectional ion gradient is generated that is capable of stimulating the remaining neural circuitry of the degenerated retina.