The International Collective of Scientists, led by Francho Santoro from Julikh, has developed an innovative biochip that replicates the human retina, opening up new possibilities in the field of bioelectronics.
The retina is a layer of nervous tissue at the back of the eye that plays a central role in the visual process. It converts light into electrical signals, which are then transmitted to the brain. Santoro and his team have successfully recreated this process in a new biochip.
Santoro, a professor at the department of neuroelectronic interfaces in RWth Aachen University and an invited researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology, explained, “Our organic semiconductor functions similarly to our eyes. It recognizes the amount of light falling on it, just as the intensity of light falling on each photo receptor forms an image in the brain.”
The new biochip is made from photosensitive molecules and conducting polymers that imitate the visual chains of the retina. Its flexibility, use of organic materials, and ability to work with ions make it more effective than traditional silicon semiconductor components. Unlike rigid silicon components, the biochip can be integrated into biological systems and has the potential for closer integration with retinal implants in the future.
Scientists also hope to use the biochips to actively control the communication chains of human cells. This could include assisting impaired organs, creating interfaces between artificial limbs and joints, and correcting processing and transmission errors caused by neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, the biochips could be used as hardware for artificial neural networks, allowing researchers to create computer programs that replicate aspects of the human brain.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.