Research on International Space Station leads to creation of protein-based retinal implant

Since joining the research group of Dr. Robert Birge in 2009, University of Connecticut, Jordan Greco has been actively involved in the research and development that has led to the creation of the protein-based retinal implant and the commercialization of this technology through LambdaVision.  (LambdaVision is led by University of Connecticut alumni and former students in Dr. Birge’s research group, Nicole Wagner, PhD and Jordan Greco, PhD.)

Dr. Greco’s graduate thesis work influenced the design and development of the retinal implant construct and the manufacturing techniques used to produce the prosthetic.  As Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Greco is responsible for manufacturing the retinal implants and establishing standard operating procedures and quality control measures.  Moreover, his research efforts helped to direct critical proof-of-concept experiments that investigated the efficacy of the retinal implant architecture.

Recently, the company’s robotic system to manufacture films that could cure blindness was brought to the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

On Earth, it takes LambdaVision approximately five days for each of its three robotic stations to produce an implant.  The process involves a series of alternating dipping steps, which are subject to the effects of gravity.  Once complete, the process results in a membrane approximately 60 um (micrometers) thick.  A micrometer is one-millionth of a meter.

In the weightless conditions of the International Space Station, LambdaVision anticipates producing a more homogeneous and stable film. If successful, Wagner and Greco anticipate they can generate a similar signal with fewer layers of protein.  This would drastically decrease the time for manufacturing, and save on the cost of materials.

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