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Monday / May 20.
HomeminewsSwinburne Research Breaks Ground

Swinburne Research Breaks Ground

A cross-disciplinary from Victoria’s Swinburne University of Technology is investigating whether gold nanoparticles and laser lights could be used to restore sight.

The research, which is in its foundational stage, is attempting to develop a vision prosthesis, perhaps in the form of a tiny laser device fitted in a pair of spectacles, much like the cochlear implant for restoring hearing.

Swinburne’s Applied Optics and Biomedical Engineering Groups are seeking government and philanthropic funding to progress the research.

The project involves injecting microscopic gold nanoparticles into the eye. They would then attach themselves to optical nerves and act to amplify very low intensity laser light, to generate heat and elicit a response from nerve cells without damaging them.

Light, however, allows us to target individual nerves and this should mean more accurate communication of optical signals

According to researcher PhD student Chiara Paviolo, the new concept explores the potential for light to deliver far more precise nerve cell stimulation than electrodes. “Electrodes need an electrical current and so they consequently stimulate a group of nerves,” Paviolo said.

“Light, however, allows us to target individual nerves and this should mean more accurate communication of optical signals – an essential outcome if the information delivered to the brain via a prosthesis is to mean anything useful in terms of shapes, colours, dimensions. You don’t just want optical ‘noise’.”

To measure and control the heat, the Swinburne team is building a molecular thermal sensor to measure how much heat is produced, so they can then work out how to control it.

The team’s ultimate ambition for its technology is a prosthesis that in the first instance will restore vision to people who have lost their sight through retinitis pigmentosis or macular degeneration.