Millions of people worldwide suffer from ocular diseases that degrade the retina, the light-processing component of the eye, causing blindness, according to the seminar abstract. As the population continues to age, the number of Americans blinded by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP) will increase. Unfortunately, there are no therapeutic or curative options for these patients, and it has left them with little hope.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in collaboration with four other national laboratories, four universities, and Second Sight® Medical Products, has developed the first long-term retinal prosthesis that can function for years inside the harsh biological environment of the eye. The device takes images from an external video camera and sends electric impulses to an array implanted in the eye. These impulses stimulate the retina and enable the brain to perceive patterns of light. In clinical trials, patients with vision loss were able to successfully identify objects, increase mobility, and detect movement using the retinal implant. Further planned developments for the device will enable reading and face recognition. In addition, the technologies used in the retinal implant, to restore sight to the blind, could be expanded to develop devices that increase the functionality of people with spinal cord injuries, deafness and other neurological disorders, the abstract states.

Speaker Bios

Dr. Satinderpall Pannu

Dr. Sat Pannu is currently the Section Leader for the Center for Micro- and Nano-Technology in the Engineering Directorate at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He manages a group of scientists and engineers as well as a fabrication facility dedicated to the research of micro- and nano-technology. Dr. Pannu also leads his own research team developing biomedical devices such as the retinal prosthesis for the Department of Energy's Artificial Retina project. Dr. Pannu began his education at Yuba Community College and then transferred to University of California at Berkeley where he obtained his doctoral degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Sarah Felix

Sarah Felix received her Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University (2000). After working for several years in the aerospace and defense industry (2000-2004), she returned to graduate school and earned a Masters and PhD in Mechanical Engineer from the University of California, Berkeley (2010). Upon completing her graduate studies, Sarah joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where she has worked in the areas of precision engineering, microfabrication, and bioMEMS.

Kedar Shah

Kedar Shah is a Biomedical Microsystems Engineer at the Center for Micro- and Nano-Technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He received his M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of California at Berkeley, and a B.S. in Engineering Science and Mechanics from The Pennsylvania State University. Kedar's research interests include microsystem packaging and assembly, neural prosthetic devices, bio-compatible materials, and novel micro- and nano-fabrication technologies.

Heeral Sheth

Heeral Sheth is a research engineer at the Center for Micro and Nano Technology in the Engineering Technologies Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Heeral is focused on designing novel devices that interface with neural systems in the human body, as well as developing direct writing techniques to print 3D structures for neural systems and tissue engineering applications. Her current research involves the use of new materials and processes to develop nano-micro-meter scale structures that are designed to interact with biological systems and contribute towards advancements in fabrication technology and medical applications. Heeral received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Vanessa Tolosa

Vanessa Tolosa is a research engineer at the Center for Micro and Nano Technology at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. She received her B.S. degree (2002) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida. Vanessa spent a year designing and monitoring ground and soil remediation systems for an environmental consulting firm before returning to graduate school. She received her M.S. (2005) and Ph.D. (2009) from UCLA working on biosensors for environmental and neural applications. Vanessa's research interests involve using engineering practices to understand the neural and biological mechanisms underlying behavior and neurodegenerative diseases. She is also interested in engineering device platforms for both biomedical and environmental applications.

Dr. Angela Tooker

Dr. Angela Tooker received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 2007.  She has been doing research in a variety of biomedical/bioengineering fields for more than 11 years.  For the past 9 years, she has been developing microfabricated devices, including BioMEMS devices (for both in vivo and in vitro experiments), micro-fluidic devices, and various mechanical sensors.