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Wearable Array for Ultrasound Stimulation on the Retina

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R41EY035609-01
Agency Tracking Number: R41EY035609
Amount: $276,306.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: NEI
Solicitation Number: PA22-178
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-09-30
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-09-29
Small Business Information
Highland, CA 92346-5477
United States
DUNS: 049045642
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (310) 962-7604
Business Contact
Phone: (310) 962-7604
Research Institution
LOS ANGELES, CA 90089-4304
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

Retinal degeneration involving progressive deterioration and loss of function of photoreceptors is a major
cause of permanent vision loss worldwide. Strategies to treat these incurable conditions incorporate retinal
prostheses via electrically stimulating surviving retinal neurons with implanted devices in the eye,
optogenetic therapy, and sonogenetic therapy. Existing challenges of these strategies include invasive
manner, complex implantation surgeries, and risky gene therapy. Therefore, an approach that can apply
directly to the naturally existing mechanoreceptors to recover visual function in blind patients is desired.
For this purpose, several pioneer studies have explored the feasibility of US stimulation of the retina to
potentially evoke neuron activities [1–4]. However, the lack of in vivo demonstration of vision restoration
and potential pattern generation from retinal degenerative models at a high spatiotemporal resolution
impeded the role of US stimulation as an efficient vision restoration approach. To move beyond these
limitations, in our recent study [5], we demonstrated US as a promising approach to induce neuron activities
in the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat in vivo, a retinal degenerative animal model widely used for
assessing therapeutic effects. Based on our previous successful demonstration, we are developing a novel
wearable array for ultrasound stimulation on the retina. It should be noted that our new device is an
upgraded version of previous works. Specifically, in this proposal, we are going to engineer, design, and
fabricate a prototype of our device for technology validation, reliability, and functionality assessments. This
device will consist of an image acquisition unit to capture the visual scenes, an image processing unit to
convert visual scenes into ultrasonic stimulation patterns, and a racing ring lens ultrasound transducer array
that generates patterned stimulation on the retina. The transducer is flexible and placed outside the eyeball,
similar to the application of a contact lens. Ultrasound emitted from the transducer can reach the retina
without passing through the lens, thus greatly minimizing the acoustic absorption in the lens. Ultimately,
we hope our findings demonstrate that ultrasound stimulation of the retina is a safe and effective approach
with a high spatiotemporal resolution, indicating a promising future of ultrasound stimulation as a novel
and noninvasive visual prosthesis for translational applications in blind patients.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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