International healthcare firms are partnering to develop a prosthetic retina, which could restore vision to a large number of blind people.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of sight loss in the world, with one in 500 people aged between 55 and 64 suffering from the condition.
Among people aged over 85, this proportion rises to one in eight.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People links AMD to smoking, exposure to sunlight, genetic predispositions, food consumption and gender, as more women have the condition than men.
However, expatriate health insurance policies may soon be able to help these individuals, as Stanford University scientists and researchers at the University of Strathclyde are currently developing an artificial retina to restore sight for AMD sufferers.
An article revealing encouraging responses to this innovation in laboratory examinations has been published in Nature Photonics and the technology is now progressing further.
First author of the paper and one of the lead researchers Dr Keith Mathieson, who is a reader in the University of Strathclyde's Institute of Photonics, pointed out AMD will become an increasing challenge to healthcare providers due to the aging populace.
"Innovative, practical solutions are essential if sight is to be restored to people around the world with the condition," he declared.
The device the scientists created electronically stimulates neurons within the human retina.
It would deliver images and energy directly to the eye using video goggles and could be remotely operated.
The tool would not require any wires, enabling simple surgical implantation.
Generally, prostatic retinas receive their energy through coils and must be implanted through difficult and complicated surgery.
"Since it receives information on the visual scene through an infra-red beam projected through the eye, the device can take advantage of natural eye movements that play a crucial role in visual processing," Dr Mathieson added.
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