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Implant oka – szansa dla milionów ludzi na świecie

Polsko-amerykański wynalazek pozwoli ujrzeć wielu ludziom świat.

Dzięki połączeniu polsko-amerykańskich sił jest szansa, że w niedalekiej przyszłości powstanie implant, który pozwoli osobom niewidomym oraz cierpiącym na choroby neurodegeneracyjne wzroku ujrzeć świat z doskonałą precyzją.

Światło, które wpada do oka przechodzi przez wszystkie jego warstwy, aby na końcu swej drogi dotrzeć do siatkówki. Dochodzi tutaj do przekształcenia informacji świetlnej na impulsy elektryczne. Następnie nerwem wzrokowym trafiają one do mózgu, gdzie ma miejsce analiza docierających informacji. W nabłonku receptorowym siatkówki wyróżnia się fotoreceptory –  czopki – umożliwiające widzenie barwne przy odpowiednim natężeniu światła oraz pręciki warunkujące widzenie zmierzchowe. Informacja z komórek receptorowych siatkówki jest przekazywana z zastosowaniem skomplikowanych algorytmów do komórek zwojowych. Główną przyczyną wielu chorób oczu jest degeneracja fotoreceptorów siatkówki, przy czym komórki zwojowe nadal funkcjonują w sposób prawidłowy. Dlatego jeśli uda się pobudzić sztucznie komórki zwojowe prądem elektrycznym pozwoli to na przekazanie informacji wzrokowej do mózgu. Na opracowaniu takiej metody skupiają się badania naukowcówz Ameryki oraz z krakowskiego AGH, których uczestnikiem jest dr Paweł Hottowyz Wydziału Fizyki i Informatyki Stosowanej. Obecnie badania prowadzone są na siatkówce oka małp – makaków w warunkach in vitro. Aby powstały obraz charakteryzował się dużą precyzją warstwa komórek receptorowych musi zostać zastąpiona  kamerą o miniaturowych rozmiarach, a sygnał być przetworzony w taki sposób jak zachodzi to przy udziale naturalnej siatkówki oka. Następnie poszczególne komórki zwojowe  powinny zostać odpowiednio pobudzone za pomocą miniaturowych elektrod.

O historii projektu, jego istocie oraz przeszłości opowiada dr Paweł Hottowy:

W jaki sposób udało się połączyć siły w badaniach z amerykańskim zespołem?

Projekt narodził się przy okazji wspólnych prac naukowców z Wydziału Fizyki i Informatyki Stosowanej AGH oraz Uniwersytetu Kalifornijskiego w Santa Cruz w laboratorium CERN pod Genewą. Naukowcy z obu instytucji wspólnie pracowali nad aparaturą do detekcji cząstek w eksperymentach wysokich energii, a udział grupy z AGH polegał przede wszystkim na projektowaniu zaawansowanej elektroniki do odczytu sygnałów z detektorów cząstek. W połowie lat 90-tych na Uniwersytecie Kalifornijskim pojawił się pomysł wykorzystania tych doświadczeń do budowy zaawansowanej aparatury do badań siatkówki oka i grupa z AGH dostała zaproszenie do zaprojektowania części elektronicznej do tego systemu. Eksperymenty z wykorzystaniem tej aparatury rozpoczęto w roku 2002, początkowo w Instytucie Badań Biologicznych im. Salka, a w 2013 roku współpracujący z nami zespół neurobiologów przeniósł się na Uniwersytet Stanforda.

Czy doświadczenia przeprowadzone na siatkówce makaka znajdą odniesienie
w przypadku człowieka?

Właśnie dlatego w eksperymentach wykorzystujemy siatkówkę makaka, że jest ona bardzo podobna do ludzkiej. Wyniki takich badań mają znacznie lepsze odniesienie do człowieka, niż w przypadku eksperymentów prowadzonych z siatkówką np. myszy albo kota. Siatkówka, której zadaniem jest detekcja wpadającego do oka światła i wysłanie informacji o tym co widzimy do mózgu, jest skomplikowanym narządem którego budowa jest inna dla różnych zwierząt. Zasadniczy schemat działania jest oczywiście ten sam: światło pada na fotoreceptory, następnie sygnał z fotoreceptorów jest przetwarzany i kodowany w postaci impulsów nerwowych przez tzw. komórki zwojowe, które są połączone z mózgiem. Wśród komórek zwojowych występuje daleko idąca specjalizacja – niektóre komórki wysyłają informacje o niewielkich zmianach jasności albo o poruszających się obiektach, inne o kolorach albo niewielkich szczegółach. Ta specjalizacja wygląda różnie u różnych zwierząt, ale w siatkówce makaka i człowieka występują identyczne typy komórek zwojowych. Dlatego wnioski z eksperymentów z użyciem siatkówki małpy są tak cenne, zarówno jeśli chodzi o badanie sposobu kodowania informacji przez siatkówkę jak i w przypadku badań nad pobudzaniem komórek siatkówki impulsami elektrycznymi. Obydwa te kierunki badań są krytyczne w kontekście budowy zaawansowanego implantu dla niewidzących.

Kiedy gotowy produkt ma szansę pojawić się na rynku?

Mówimy o perspektywie co najmniej kilkunastu lat. Na razie badania są prowadzone w laboratorium, gdzie staramy się odtworzyć za pomocą impulsów elektrycznych takie same sygnały w komórkach zwojowych, jakie powstają w zdrowej siatkówce kiedy na coś patrzymy. Nadal nie potrafimy tego zrobić z taką precyzją, jaka będzie wymagana dla zapewnienia pacjentom sztucznego widzenia o wysokiej jakości. Prawdopodobnie będziemy musieli zbudować kolejną generację aparatury do pomiarów w laboratorium – wprawdzie nasz obecny system pozwala stymulować elektrycznie oraz rejestrować aktywność siatkówki z dużo większą precyzją, niż jakikolwiek inny podobny system istniejący na świecie, ale nadal pomiar niektórych bardzo subtelnych sygnałów pozostaje poza naszym zasięgiem. Dopiero kiedy będziemy potrafili wystarczająco precyzyjnie kontrolować aktywność siatkówki w laboratorium, będzie można pomyśleć o budowie implantu dla pacjentów. Ten etap osiągniemy nie wcześniej niż za jakieś 10 lat, natomiast to ile czasu zajmie budowa samej protezy będzie zależało od ówczesnego poziomu rozwoju mikroelektroniki oraz technik nanofabrykacji.

Nad podobnymi rozwiązaniami pracują też naukowcy z wielu krajów. Poniżej film rozwiązania bionicznego implanta oka opracowanego przez jedną z firm.

Źródło: http://biotechnologia.pl/biotechnologia/polsko-amerykanski-wynalazek-pozwoli-ujrzec-swiat,14406

Źródło: https://www.sciencealert.com

Materiał video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIdKmzeTb3Y

Michał Nil
Redaktor - nowoczesne technologie, gospodarka, kultura

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