Loss of eyesight is often caused by retinal degeneration as people age. But, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Centers for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, both in Israel, and Newcastle University, OK, are developing a prosthetic retina could help counter eyesight loss from problems with this specific portion of the eye.

They point out that a variety of medical devices are becoming available to treat conditions, including visual impairment, by sending sensory signals to the brain. But many use metallic parts, cumbersome wiring, or have low resolution.

The team is working to develop a more compact device. They combined semiconductor nanorods and carbon nanotubes to create a wireless, light-sensitive, flexible film that could potentially act in the place of a damaged retina. When tested with a chick retina that normally doesn’t respond to light, they found that the film absorbed light and, in response, sparked neuronal activity. In comparison with other technologies, the researchers say that theirs is more durable, flexible, and efficient, as well as better able to stimulate neurons.