Neuralink co-founder's startup called Science, a biology-driven technology company focused on the brain, has revealed an advanced visual prosthesis for people with severe blindness. The company was founded in 2021 by Neuralink co-founder and former president Max Hodak.
The device, called Science Eye, is designed for people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), two forms of severe vision loss. According to the company, patients with these diseases have no good treatment options right now.
The device was tested on rabbits, and the company plans to begin testing it on humans in the coming years. The prototype uses a two-millimeter-wide thin LED film inserted directly over the retina that can process patterns sent to it wirelessly.
A gene is inserted into the patient's cells of the optic nerve, which makes it possible to stimulate them using a small display inserted into the eye.
“Making the optic nerve itself light sensitive doesn't restore vision per se: there are over 100 million photoreceptors per eye but only around 1 million retinal ganglion cells. In other words, the signal sent down the optic nerve is heavily compressed relative to the image that is formed onto the photoreceptors through the eye's lens. It is this compressed data that the Science Eye implant stimulates into the optic nerve,” the statement reads.
Images that the first patients will experience might look different from what we think of as vision.
Hodak's startup has already raised $160 million to commercialize the technology.