Issue 10, January 2011
bulletOptical Technologies for Better Sight and Insight
bulletSubretinal Electronic Chips Allow Blind Patients to Read
bulletIntraocular Lens to Reverse Age-Related Visual Decline
bulletWhat the Fly's Visual System Tells Us About Visually-Guided Behavior
bulletSuperresolution Microscopy 

bulletInnovation: Vigilant Eye Camera
TopOptical Technologies for Better Sight and Insight
From glasses and contact lenses to microscopes and mechanical engineering, optical technologies "made in Germany" are one of Germany's outstanding research and industrial fields. Jena, a city in the German state of Thuringia, became the cradle of modern optical technologies in the 19th century, as the birthplace and home of global trademarks such as Zeiss and Schott. In the 20 years since reunification, Germany has become a leader in laser technologies. Supported by Germany's High-Tech Strategy, optical technologies now account for a R&D turnover of 9.7 percent and influence about 16 percent of jobs in the manufacturing industry. For information on cutting-edge fields in optical technologies in Eastern Germany, please click here.
This issue of E-NNOVATION GERMANY includes a pilot study that allows blind patients to read again and information about cutting-edge research on an intraocular lens that has the potential to reverse age-related visual decline. Inspired by our recent GCRI event "Navigating a Technicolor World: What the Fly's Visual System Tells Us About Visually-Guided Behavior," we are highlighting recent advances in superresolution microscopy that have been commercialized by Zeiss MicroImaging LLC. 


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Subretinal electronic chip

segment2Subretinal Electronic Chips Allow Blind Patients to Read Letters and Identify Words
A group in Germany, led by Prof. Eberhart Zrenner of the Eberhard Karls University Tuebingen, has developed an electronic light-sensitive, externally-powered microchip that was implanted subretinally in volunteers who are blind from hereditary retinal dystrophy. The implant, produced by Retina Implant AG, Reutlingen, contains a chip with 1,500 microphotodiodes, each with its own amplifier and local stimulation electrode. Visual scenes are projected naturally through the eye's lens onto the chip under the transparent retina. The chip generates a corresponding pattern of 38x40 pixels, each releasing light-intensity-dependent electric stimulation pulses. Subsequently, three previously blind persons could locate bright objects on a dark table, and two of them could discern grating patterns. One patient could correctly describe and name objects like a fork or knife, geometric patterns, different fruits and discern shades of grey with only 15% contrast. He quickly learned to localize and approach people in a room freely and to read large letters as complete words after several years of blindness. This pilot study demonstrates for the first time that subretinal micro-electrode arrays with 1,500 photodiodes can create detailed meaningful visual perception in previously blind individuals. In an ongoing long-term multicenter study the group aims to secure approval for the electronic chips as a registered medical device for broader application. To read more, click here. 

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artificial accomodation system

segment3Intraocular Lens Research to Reverse Age-Related Visual Decline  
Eyesight, one of the most important human senses, declines with age, especially accommodation, the ability to focus on objects at varying distances. This impairment is usually alleviated through visual aids such as glasses. Another visual impairment that frequently affects elderly people is cataracts - opafication of the lens - which, if untreated, may lead to blindness. At present, cataracts are treated by removing the opacified lens and replacing it with a polymer intraocular lens (IOL). In both cases, accommodative ability is lost. To restore human accommodation by technical means, the Institute of Applied Computer Science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and University of Rostock are developing a microsystem that will be implanted in the capsular bag of the human eye like an IOL. The implant does not have contact with the central nervous system or the ciliary muscle. Therefore, the accommodative demand has to be determined independently. Two solutions are currently being pursued: measurement of ocular convergence with respect to the earth's magnetic field by means of compass sensors, or observation of pupil constriction. Miniaturized solutions of the aforementioned subsystems are currently being developed for a functional model on a scale of 2:1. A prototype that will be used for animal testing is planned for 2014. 

Picture: Computer-generated image of the artificial accomodation system implanted into the capsular bag of a human eye. KIT/IAI

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Jan 13 event

segment4Navigating a Technicolor World: What the Fly's Visual System Tells Us About Visually-Guided Behavior
In the recent New York Times article Decoding the Human Brain, With Help From a Fly, Nicholas Wade writes that biologists see the atlas of the fly brain as a first step toward understanding the human brain. On January 13, 2011, Prof. Axel Borst (Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Germany) and Prof. Claude Desplan (New York University) discussed the principles of processing and decoding motion information and color cues in the fly brain at the GCRI. While Prof. Borst's research focuses on decoding motion information and how it is used for navigation and flight control in the cockpit of a fly, Prof. Desplan's work is related to color vision. Both Prof. Borst and Prof. Desplan have identified and manipulated neurons involved in response to visual stimulation. Through one of Prof. Desplan's postdocs, both scientists discovered a strong overlap between neurons involved in the fly's visual motion and color preceptions. Their collaboration started three months ago, and after their joint appearance at the GCRI, both professors will send postdocs to each other's laboratories. Prof. Borst is the Director of Systems and Computational Neurobiology at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany. Prof. Desplan heads the Laboratory for Molecular Genetics at the Department of Biology at New York University.


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Zeiss_Photoactivated Localization

segment5Superresolution Microscopy Allows a Closer Look at Life
Scientists have relied on microscope images to understand various biological processes in cells and organisms. Their research has been limited by what is known as the "diffraction barrier" in microscopy, meaning that two structures less than ~200 nm apart cannot be resolved. This is particularly critical for many questions in biology; for instance, most viruses are much smaller than this. Another example is the cytoskeleton, a protein network of fibers that can be as thin as 8 nm and studied because of its role in cell division and cancer. Recent advances in microscopy have focused on the development of the superresolution system, named because it can resolve structures below 200 nm.  Recently, Carl Zeiss has commercialized two such systems, SR-SIM and PAL-M. SR-SIM generates interference patterns in the image by illuminating the sample with structured light. These patterns can be processed to reveal information that was originally too small to resolve, down to ~100 nm. PAL-M works by imaging just a few molecules at a time and precisely localizing those molecules. This generates phenomenal resolution, down to ~20 nm. These techniques will allow much closer investigations into cells, as well a better understanding of bacteria and viruses. Visit to learn more.


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Vigilant Eye Camera

segment6Innovation: Vigilant Eye Camera
An innovative camera system developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT will, in the near future, enhance security in public areas and buildings. The system analyzes live video stream in real time and then immediately flags up salient features and unusual scenes. The system hardware consists of a fixed surveillance camera which covers a certain area, and two ultra-active stereo cameras. Like human eyes, these can fix on and follow various points very quickly in succession, but also zoom in on details. At the heart of Vigilant Eye System is innovative software that automatically analyzes the image sequences. The software learns what is salient by building observation models of activities and then automatically detecting unexpected events. In addition, the system guides the active cameras to record the detected events in high resolution. Its inherent flexibility allows application of the Vigilant Eyes Software in very different indoor and outdoor scenarios. The software application ranges from observation of crowded public places, e.g. airports, subways, malls or sport arenas, to monitoring of secluded zones with restricted entering rights. For more information, click here.


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