Retinal Prostheses: Engineering and Clinical Perspectives for Vision Restoration

Sensors (Basel). 2023 Jun 21;23(13):5782. doi: 10.3390/s23135782.


A retinal prosthesis, also known as a bionic eye, is a device that can be implanted to partially restore vision in patients with retinal diseases that have resulted in the loss of photoreceptors (e.g., age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa). Recently, there have been major breakthroughs in retinal prosthesis technology, with the creation of numerous types of implants, including epiretinal, subretinal, and suprachoroidal sensors. These devices can stimulate the remaining cells in the retina with electric signals to create a visual sensation. A literature review of the pre-clinical and clinical studies published between 2017 and 2023 is conducted. This narrative review delves into the retinal anatomy, physiology, pathology, and principles underlying electronic retinal prostheses. Engineering aspects are explored, including electrode-retina alignment, electrode size and material, charge density, resolution limits, spatial selectivity, and bidirectional closed-loop systems. This article also discusses clinical aspects, focusing on safety, adverse events, visual function, outcomes, and the importance of rehabilitation programs. Moreover, there is ongoing debate over whether implantable retinal devices still offer a promising approach for the treatment of retinal diseases, considering the recent emergence of cell-based and gene-based therapies as well as optogenetics. This review compares retinal prostheses with these alternative therapies, providing a balanced perspective on their advantages and limitations. The recent advancements in retinal prosthesis technology are also outlined, emphasizing progress in engineering and the outlook of retinal prostheses. While acknowledging the challenges and complexities of the technology, this article highlights the significant potential of retinal prostheses for vision restoration in individuals with retinal diseases and calls for continued research and development to refine and enhance their performance, ultimately improving patient outcomes and quality of life.

Keywords: flexible electronic devices; flexible sensors; human–machine interface; implantable electronic devices; ophthalmology; retinal disease; retinal prosthesis; vision restoration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Engineering* / instrumentation
  • Biomedical Engineering* / trends
  • Electrodes, Implanted / standards
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection
  • Quality of Life
  • Retina* / pathology
  • Retina* / physiology
  • Retinal Diseases* / pathology
  • Retinal Diseases* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Prosthesis* / adverse effects
  • Visual Prosthesis* / standards
  • Visual Prosthesis* / trends

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.