For conditions such as macular degeneration, which affects 14 million people, it is possible to restore sight by stimulating the retina with an image from a camera. However, not only is the resolution of stimulation very low, but the signal loses fidelity as the 2D stimulating arrays activate multiple cell types, including inhibitory circuits which cancel out parts of the signal.
This challenge is not restricted to macular degeneration, but whenever we would like to create an interface between an external sensor and part of the brain. Existing technologies suffer a seemingly inevitable trade-off between the lifetime of the solution (scarring, rejection) and the fidelity of the interface (proximity to nerves).
But, if we overcome these challenges, we open up the possibility of sending and receiving information directly to the brain.
Neuroloom use living electrodes to interface with the brain. Their approach allows exceptionally high definition transmission of information to the brain with much lower likelihood of rejection and no loss of fidelity from scarring. The team use breakthroughs in photon-scale polymeric 3D printing techniques and insights from developmental neurobiology to create adaptors for the brain. Their first application is in restoring sight.