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Transscleral implantation and neurophysiological testing of subretinal polyimide film electrodes in the domestic pig in visual prosthesis development.

  • Sachs, Helmut G1
  • Schanze, Thomas
  • Brunner, Ursula
  • Sailer, Heiko
  • Wiesenack, Christoph
  • 1 University Eye Clinic, University Hospital Regensburg, Franz Josef Strauss Allee 11, D-93042 Regensburg, Germany. [email protected]
Published Article
Journal of Neural Engineering
IOP Publishing
Publication Date
March 2005
PMID: 15876656


Loss of photoreceptor function is responsible for a variety of blinding diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa. Advances in microtechnology have led to the development of electronic visual prostheses which are currently under investigation for the treatment of human blindness. The design of a subretinal prosthesis requires that the stimulation device should be implantable in the subretinal space of the eye. Current limitations in eye surgery have to be overcome to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach and to determine basic stimulation parameters. Therefore, polyimide film-bound electrodes were implanted in the subretinal space in anaesthetized domestic pigs as a prelude to electrical stimulation in acute experiments. Eight eyes underwent surgery to demonstrate the transscleral implantability of the device. Four of the eight eyes were stimulated electrically. In these four animals the cranium was prepared for epidural recording of evoked visual cortex responses, and stimulation was performed with sequences of current impulses. All eight subretinal implantation procedures were carried out successfully with polyimide film electrodes and each electrode was implanted beneath the outer retina of the posterior pole of the operated eyes. Four eyes were used for neurophysiological testing, involving recordings of epidural cortical responses to light and electrical stimulation. A light stimulus response, which occurred 40 ms after stimulation, proved the integrity of the operated eye. The electrical stimuli occurred about 20 ms after the onset of stimulation. The stimulation threshold was approximately 100 microA. Both the threshold and the cortical responses depended on the correspondence between retinal stimulation and cortical recording sites and on the number of stimulation electrodes used simultaneously. The subretinal implantation of complex stimulation devices using the transscleral procedure with consecutive subretinal stimulation is feasible in acute experiments in an animal model approximating to the situation in humans. The domestic pig is an appropriate animal model for basic testing of subretinal implants. Animal experiments with chronically implanted devices and long-term stimulation are advisable to prepare the field for successful human experiments.

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