Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 31480027
J Neural Eng 2019 Sep;
BACKGROUND: The restoration of vision in blind patients suffering from degenerative retinal diseases like retinitis pigmentosa (RP) may be obtained by local electrical stimulation with retinal implants. In this study, a very large electrode array for retinal stimulation (VLARS) was introduced and tested regarding its safety in implantation and biocompatibility. Further, the array’s stimulation capabilities were tested in an acute setting. Material and Method: The polyimide-based implants have a diameter of 12 mm, cover approximately 110 mm² of the retinal surface and carrying 250 iridium oxide coated gold electrodes. The implantation surgery was established in cadaveric porcine eyes. To analyze biocompatibility, ten rabbits were implanted with the VLARS device, and observed for 12 weeks using slit lamp examination, fundus photography, optical coherence tomography (OCT) as well as ultrasound imaging. After enucleation, histological examinations were performed. In acute stimulation experiments, electrodes recorded cortical field potentials upon retinal stimulation in the visual cortex in rabbits. Results: Implantation studies in rabbits showed that the implantation surgery is safe but difficult. Retinal detachment induced by retinal tears was observed in five animals in varying severity. In five cases, corneal edema reduced the quality of the follow-up examinations. Findings in OCT-imaging and funduscopy suggested that peripheral fixation was insufficient in various animals. Results of the acute stimulation demonstrated the array’s ability to elicit cortical responses. Conclusion: Overall, it was possible to implant very large epiretinal arrays. The VLARS elicits cortical answers corresponding to the position of the retinal stimulation. The VLARS device offers the opportunity to restore a much larger field of visual perception when compared to current available retinal implants.