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B. Future Alternatives to the Bionic Eye?

Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are working on ways to genetically engineer damaged retinal cells to be sensitive to light. Neurobiologist Richard Kramer says this technique has advantages over the most common approach of using a bionic eye, or rather, inserting electrodes in the optic nerve.

Kramer: Instead of having invasive electrodes at each cell that you want to regulate, the advantage of light is you can move the light beam around and there are sophisticated laser scanning devices that let you cover a very large area containing tens of thousands of neurons and impose patterns in a way that would be impossible with electrodes.

Narrator: Kramer's lab is collaborating with the optometry school at UC Berkeley.

Kramer: One challenge is going to be how you get the gene of interest into nerve cells in the retina and one way potentially to do that is by making viruses that infect nerve cells. We alter these viruses, so they're not capable of replicating themselves.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.