Mechanical stimulation of the retina: Therapeutic feasibility and cellular mechanism

Corey M. Rountree, Chen Meng, John B. Troy, Laxman Saggere*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Retinal prostheses that seek to restore vision by artificially stimulating retinal neurons with electrical current are an emerging treatment for photoreceptor degenerative diseases but face difficulties achieving naturalistic vision with high spatial resolution. Here, we report the unexpected discovery of a technique for mechanically stimulating retinal neurons with the potential to bypass the limitations of electrical stimulation. We found that pulsatile injections of standard Ames medium solution into explanted retinas of wild type rats under certain injection conditions (pulse-width > 50ms at 0.69 kPa pressure) elicit spatially localized retinal responses similar to light-evoked responses. The same injections made into photoreceptor degenerated retinas of transgenic S334ter-3 rats also elicit robust neural responses. We investigated the cellular mechanism causing these responses, by repeating the injections after treating the retinas with a pharmacological blocker of the transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV) channel group, a common mechanoreceptor found on retinal neurons, and observed a significant reduction in retinal ganglion cell spike rate response amplitudes. Together, these data reveal that therapeutic mechanical stimulation of the retina, occurring in part through TRPV channel activation, is feasible and this little explored neurostimulation paradigm could be useful in stimulating photoreceptor degenerated retinas for vision restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1075-1083
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Mechanical stimulation
  • TRPV channel
  • artificial vision
  • mechanoreceptor
  • neurostimulation
  • retina
  • visual prosthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Internal Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering


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