Visual Prosthesis

Facilitating research for a visual prosthesis.

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology actively supports the international efforts to develop and refine a prosthetic device that can be used safely to restore vision to the blind.

The promise of a visual prosthesis

According to Prevent Blindness America, over 41 million American adults are blind, have reduced vision or an age-related eye disease, such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. Still others suffer from other progressive disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa or neuro-ophthalmology conditions. A visual prosthesis holds promise for patients who have experienced severe vision loss as the result of these and other conditions, including ocular trauma.

Types of visual implant

A visual prosthesis seeks to use an external device to capture light, much as the eye does naturally, and channel it through a series of electrodes implanted at one of various points along the visual pathway. Ultimately, this combination of an external device and implanted electrodes would present images of the outside world to a visually impaired individual. These images may or may not appear the same as they do to a person who has full use of their normal vision, but they will provide adequate cues to provide useful visual function. Although research in this area is in the early stages, there are three types of visual implant being explored for use in a visual prosthesis:

  • Retinal implant: In this type of visual prosthesis, the visual implant would consist of electrodes that stimulate the retina, either in the epiretinal or subretinal space.
  • Optic nerve implant: In this type of visual prosthesis, the visual implant would consist of electrodes implanted directly into the optic nerve.
  • Cortical implant: In this type of visual prosthesis, the visual implant would consist of electrodes implanted directly into the deep brain’s visual cortex.

Facilitating visual prosthesis research

The Department of Ophthalmology is a leader in facilitating work on an eventual visual prosthesis through its world congress, The Eye and The Chip. This program, held in even years, seeks to marry the most recent advances in nanoelectronics and neurobiology to provide artificial vision to many people who are now blind as a result of many eye conditions, diseases and injuries.

Advanced treatment for eye disease

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology has extensive experience in the treatment of all eye diseases, regardless of their complexity. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it. Our patients have access to advanced diagnostic tests and treatment and, if eligible, related clinical trials.