As the world's population grows older, so does the number of people with impaired vision. Many will suffer from problems where the light-sensitive visual cells in the retina gradually deteriorate and eventually lead to severe visual impairment.
But now researchers at the USC School of Engineering in the United States have developed a method where vision can be restored using ultrasound.
The method is built around the fact that the photoreceptor cells can be activated if they are stimulated. Something that is currently done using electric pulses, but this requires a surgical procedure. By using ultrasound instead, the researchers can stimulate the cells without having to insert anything into the eye.
The ultrasound pulsates into the eye and pushes on the photoreceptor cells. In animal experiments, the researchers discovered that the cells are sensitive to this mechanical stimulation. The researchers built a small ultrasound device that can focus the ultrasound exactly on the area of the retina that needs to be stimulated.
Trials show that rats that are completely blind regain their sight after ultrasound treatments. The results are so promising that the researchers will now move forward and try to develop a treatment that can be used on humans.