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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 21:04 GMT 22:04 UK
Scientists seek to restore sight
Retinal prosthesis schematic
A diagram of the retinal prosthesis from the University of Glasgow
Pioneering work to tackle two common forms of blindness is being undertaken by University of Glasgow scientists.

Dr Keith Mathieson hopes an electronic optical implant will help blind people to regain their vision.

Technology similar to that found in devices like digital cameras could be in use within a decade.

Dr Mathieson said: "By implanting a device into the eye, we hope we will be able to fool the brain into believing the retina is still in working order."

The chip would assist about one million people in the UK with age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa.

'Recognise faces'

Dr Mathieson said: "Advances in microelectronics have allowed us to develop a small device to be implanted on the retina itself.

"The device would contain an imaging detector.

"If light forms an image on the detector, then the result will be electrical stimulation of the retina in the shape of this image.

"The stimulated cells then send the information via the optic nerve to the brain."

The implant prototype has 100 pixels but the team hope that number will increase significantly as their work progresses.

Dr Mathieson, said: "Around 500 pixels would allow people to walk down the street and recognise faces.

"Beyond where we are today it might be possible to make smart chips which have memory in them which would allow action replay and slow motion."

Dr Mathieson, from the University of Glasgow's department of physics, is working on the project with Dr James D Morrison from the neuroscience and biomedical systems department.

See a blind woman talk about her experiences

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