Retinal diseases such as macular degeneration destroy the photoreceptors in the eye that detect light and relay that data through the ganglion cells in the optic nerve to the brain. But even when the photoreceptors are damaged, the ganglion cells remain alive and functional. Sheila Nirenberg of Weill Cornell Medical College has found a way to artificially recreate the complex code that a healthy retina produces when a person sees an image, so the brain can translate those signals, and a patient with macular degeneration can see again - faces, animals, even the dimple in a baby's smile. Using high-speed, parallel processing computers, Nirenberg has embedded custom software in microprocessors and cameras that will be built into eyeglasses, such as the ones on the test model shown here.
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