The degeneration of photoreceptors in the retina is one of the major causes of adult blindness in humans. Unfortunately, no effective clinical treatments exist for the majority of retinal degenerative disorders. Here we report on the fabrication and functional validation of a fully organic prosthesis for long-term in vivo subretinal implantation in the eye of Royal College of Surgeons rats, a widely recognized model of retinitis pigmentosa. Electrophysiological and behavioural analyses reveal a prosthesis-dependent recovery of light sensitivity and visual acuity that persists up to 6–10 months after surgery. The rescue of the visual function is accompanied by an increase in the basal metabolic activity of the primary visual cortex, as demonstrated by positron emission tomography imaging. Our results highlight the possibility of developing a new generation of fully organic, highly biocompatible and functionally autonomous photovoltaic prostheses for subretinal implants to treat degenerative blindness.
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The authors thank M. M. La Vail (Beckman Vision Center, University of California San Francisco, California) for providing non-dystrophic RCS-rdy+ and dystrophic RCS rats; G. Vijfvinkel (Oftavinci BV, Geervliet, The Netherlands) for manufacturing specific surgical tools for implantation; L. Criante and S. Perissinotto for help at the laser micro-machining facility; M. Bramini and F. D. Fonzo for help in scanning electron microscopy; A. Russo, C. Orsini, F. Canu, I. Dall’Orto, A. Mehilli and D. Moruzzo for technical assistance. The work was supported by the EU project FP7-PEOPLE-212-ITN 316832 ‘OLIMPIA’ (to F.B. and G.L.); Telethon—Italy (grants GGP12033 to G.L., F.B. and S.B. and GGP14022 to G.P. and F.B.); Fondazione Cariplo (project ONIRIS 2013–0738 to MRA, G.F. and D.G.); Compagnia di San Paolo (project ID 4191 to D.G. and F.B.), the Italian Ministry of Health (project RF-2013-02358313 to G.P., G.L. and F.B.) and Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (pre-startup project to G.L. and F.B.). The support of Ra.Mo. Foundation (Milano, Italy) and Rare Partners srl (Milano, Italy) is also acknowledged.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Maya-Vetencourt, J., Ghezzi, D., Antognazza, M. et al. A fully organic retinal prosthesis restores vision in a rat model of degenerative blindness. Nature Mater 16, 681–689 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat4874
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