Nowadays the total loss of vision capability, related to photoreceptors malfunctioning or degeneration (due to aging effects or genetic origins), affects more than 30 million people all over the "developed" countries, and this number is expected to raise in the next 10-20 years because of the population aging trend. Currently, there is no mean to restore vision in blind patients; existing artificial visual prosthesis are affected by serious limitations, especially in terms of biocompatibility and achievable visual acuity.
We propose opto-neural interfaces based on light-sensitive organic semiconductors that enable the transduction of the information carried by light into specific patterns of electrical activity in a neuronal network. This would allow the realization of an implantable organic prosthetic device for the treatment of genetic degenerative diseases in patients affected by photoreceptor degeneration, such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. First step of this highly multidisciplinary project was the characterization of the organic polymer-liquid interface; the second step consisted in the in vitro proof of concept experiment demonstrating the possibility of photostimulation in a network of primary neurons grown on top of the organic semiconductor.
Related IIT publications
D. Ghezzi, M. R. Antognazza, M. Dal Maschio, E. Lanzarini, F. Benfenati, G. Lanzani, "A hybrid bioorganic interface for neuronal photoactivation", Nature Communications, 2, 166 (2011) DOI 10.1038/ncomms1164.
M. R. Antognazza, U. Scherf, P. Monti and G. Lanzani, "Organic-based Tristimuli colorimeter", Applied Physics Letters, 90, 163509 - 12 (2007) DOI: 10.1063/1.2723653.
M. R. Antognazza, D. Ghezzi, D. Musitelli, M. Garbugli, and G. Lanzani, "A hybrid solid-liquid polymer photodiode for the bioenvironment", Applied Physics Letters, 94, 243501 (2009) DOI: 10.1063/1.3153846.