With hopes of developing a new strategy for bionic vision restoration, researchers are testing the power of holography to artificially stimulate cells in the eye.
Researcher led by biomedical engineering Professor Shy Shoham of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology said that computer-generated holography could be used in conjunction with a technique called optogenetics, which uses gene therapy to deliver light-sensitive proteins to damaged retinal nerve cells.
The researchers have shown how light from computer-generated holography could be used to stimulate these repaired cells in mouse retinas, saying that the key is to use a light stimulus that is intense, precise, and can trigger activity across a variety of cells all at once.
The researchers turned to holography after exploring other options, including laser deflectors and digital displays used in many portable projectors to stimulate these cells.
The researchers have tested the potential of holographic stimulation in retinal cells in the lab, and have done some preliminary work with the technology in living mice with damaged retinal cells.
The experiments have shown that holography can provide reliable and simultaneous stimulation of multiple cells at millisecond speeds.
But Shoham has cautioned that implementing a holographic prosthesis in humans is far in the future.
Holography itself "also provides a very interesting path toward three-dimensional stimulation, which we don't use so much in the retina, but is very interesting in other projects where it allow us to stimulate 3-D brain tissue," Shoham said.
Shoham's co-authors on the paper included Dr. Inna Reutsky-Gefen, Lior Golan, Dr. Nairouz Farah, Adi Schejter, Limor Tsur, and Dr. Inbar Brosh.
The paper has been published in Nature Communications.