Visual Prostheses Based Upon Fiber-Optic Uncaging of Neurotransmitter Substances

Case ID:

This drug delivery system selectively delivers drugs to various types of neurological cells to stimulate neurological tissue.  This system can be used to develop visual and cortical prostheses.

Background & Unmet Need:

There are several types of prosthetic devices used for stimulation of neural tissue or neurons. There are visual prostheses used to artificially restore vision in blind patients, which are currently being developed, and auditory prostheses used to artificially restore hearing.  Currently, the method used to stimulate neural tissue associated with the visual and auditory systems includes developing devices and software for the application of electrical current to neural tissue.  The basis of this technology was established in the late 1960s; arrays of surface stimulation electrodes were implanted in human visual cortical areas to generate the perception of multiple light flashes.  These perceptions, called phophenes, can be arranged in a spatially organized manner so as to produce a primitive form of patterned vision.  However, electrode arrays have certain problems that lead to technical difficulties; biocompatibility is a challenge.  There is a need for a method and apparatus that can precisely stimulate certain cells and neural tissue to produce a predictable perception.  The implantable device must be biocompatible and remain biocompatible.


Technology Description:

This technology is a drug delivery system that selectively delivers drugs to various types of neurological cells.  During a surgical operation, a solution of photoactivatable neuro-active drug is delivered to a pre‑selected area in vivo and photoactivated to stimulate neurological tissue. The neuro-active drug may be either an agonist or an antagonist of neuronal activity.  The fiber optic cable can also be used to deliver light.

Commercial Applications:

  • Development of a visual prosthesis for retinal implantation that would help 13 million people in US alone
  • Cortical prosthesis for patients who have lost vision due to disease, glaucoma, diabetes or trauma.


Stage of Development:



Competitive Advantages:

  • Precise stimulation of neural tissue
  • Predictable perception that enhances spatial resolution
  • Sustained biocompatibility


Intellectual Property Status:

US patent #6,668,190

Related Publications or Citations of Work:



Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Joan Dunbar
Associate Vice President for Technology Commercialization
Wayne State University
(313) 577-5542
Patrick Mcallister
Raymond Iezzi
Gregory Auner
Gary Abrams
Drug Delivery