How Tattoo Ink and Gold Could (One Day) Help Restore Vision

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An artificial retina made of organic ink and gold may be able to restore vision someday, a new study suggests.

The new device is an extremely thin sheet of organic crystal pigments, which are widely used in printing ink, cosmetics and tattoos. When these pigments are arranged in a particular layered geometry, the crystals can absorb light and convert it to electric signals, just like the light-sensitive cells — called photoreceptors — in the eye’s retina and make vision possible, according to the study, published May 2 in the journal Advanced Materials.

The device holds promise for restoring vision for the millions of people with diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness among the elderly.

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