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Public colloquium on novel technologies for restoration of functioning vision

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Date: Friday 9 February 2018
Venue: EN615, EN Building, Hawthorn Campus

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Professor Diego Ghezzi, from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland:  

'Our laboratory is a truly multidisciplinary environment where scientists from different backgrounds cooperate to accomplish highly innovative projects. In fact, we bring together researches on materials science, engineering, and life science, by the convergence of physicists, engineers, biologists, and neuroscientists; this makes our laboratory an active place for cross-contamination among several expertise. Our mission is the implementation of novel technological approaches for fighting blindness by combining bioengineering and biotechnological tools.

Ultimately, we aim at translating our research findings into clinical practice. Blindness affects more than 30 million people worldwide, and it is defined as visual acuity of less than 20/400 or a corresponding visual field loss to less than 10 degrees, in the better eye with the best possible correction. Visual prostheses have been developed to help blind patients in gaining a functional form of vision. In this seminar, I will present our advancement in the development of a wide-field retinal prosthesis and a stimulator for the optic nerve. I will present results about their efficacy as visual prostheses.

Our retinal prosthesis is inspired by intra ocular lenses. We designed a foldable and wide-field epiretinal prosthesis capable of achieving a wireless photovoltaic stimulation of retinal ganglion cells with a remarkable increase in its retinal coverage and in the number of stimulating pixels. Within a visual angle of 46.9 degrees, it embeds 2215 stimulating pixels, of which 967 are in the central area of 5 mm. It is foldable to limit the scleral incision during implantation and it has a hemispherical shape to remain in tight contact with the retina. We also demonstrate that the prosthesis is not cytotoxic, while accelerated ageing shows a lifetime of at least 2 years.

Moreover, it fulfils optical and thermal safety requirements. Last, the flexibility of the fabrication process may allow the production of a hemispherical prosthesis adjusted to the real eye curvature of the patient. These advances provide a solution towards the improvement of both visual acuity and visual field in blind patients. Last I will present the development of an intra-neural electrode array for optic nerve stimulation and its validation in animal models.'

About the speaker

Prof Diego Ghezzi holds the Medtronic Chair in Neuroengineering at the Interfaculty Institute of Bioengineering, School of Engineering, of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. He received his MSc in Biomedical Engineering (2004) and PhD in Bioengineering (2008) from Politecnico di Milano. From 2008 to 2013, he completed his postdoctoral training at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genova at the department of Neuroscience and Brain Technologies; where he was promoted Researcher in 2013. In 2015, he was appointed as Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at EPFL. He is currently affiliated to the EPFL Center for Neuroprosthetics. His research activities are primarily focused on the implementation of novel technological approaches for sight restoration, and in general on the development of technologies to talk with the nervous systems.


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Contact Information: Tatiana Kamenevia
Email: Tel: 03 9214 4697