Broccoli design offers clue to improve retinal implants

Researchers at the University of Oregon are currently exploring the possibility that retinal implants with a fractal design might provide the first viable therapy in treating people who have lost vision due to retinal diseases.

Implants that are currently being used have not demonstrated the kind of vision restoration that doctors and patients were looking for.

Taking a cue from nature, researchers are considering a fractal design. Fractal designs can be found throughout nature. Fractal patterns are patterns that repeat on different scales. One example is how a broccoli floret resembles a head of broccoli. The research team recognized that unlike the traditional square shape of current implants, that fractal structures have properties that would be a good fit for what is needed in an implant electrode and might interface better with neurons.

Putting their design idea into practice, the researchers discovered that the fractal electrode stimulated all of its neurons at a lower voltage than the grid electrode in the square design and at a much lower voltage as well. The fractal design proved to be much more efficient at stimulating neurons than the current square designs. Further testing and studies will be needed but initial findings offer hope for an improved implant design.*

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