Retinal stimulation strategies to restore vision: Fundamentals and systems

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2016 Jul;53:21-47. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2016.05.002. Epub 2016 May 26.


Retinal degeneration, a leading cause of blindness worldwide, is primarily characterized by the dysfunctional/degenerated photoreceptors that impair the ability of the retina to detect light. Our group and others have shown that bioelectronic retinal implants restore useful visual input to those who have been blind for decades. This unprecedented approach of restoring sight demonstrates that patients can adapt to new visual input, and thereby opens up opportunities to not only improve this technology but also develop alternative retinal stimulation approaches. These future improvements or new technologies could have the potential of selectively stimulating specific cell classes in the inner retina, leading to improved visual resolution and color vision. In this review we will detail the progress of bioelectronic retinal implants and future devices in this genre as well as discuss other technologies such as optogenetics, chemical photoswitches, and ultrasound stimulation. We will discuss the principles, biological aspects, technology development, current status, clinical outcomes/prospects, and challenges for each approach. The review will cover functional imaging documented cortical responses to retinal stimulation in blind patients.

Keywords: Bioelectronic; Optogenetics; Photoreceptor degeneration; Photoswitches; Prosthesis; Retinal stimulation; Ultrasound; Vision restoration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Optogenetics
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Prosthesis*