Monday, February 18, 2013

U.S. Approves Nation's First Retinal Implant

Medical Science

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has approved the nation's first retinal implant technology, which promises to restore partial sight to individuals suffering from advanced retinitis pigmentos, a genetic condition that damages cells surrounding the retina, says an article, by Larry Greenemeir, in Scientific American:
The FDA’s green light for Second Sight’s Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System gives hope to those blinded by a rare genetic eye condition called advanced retinitis pigmentosa, which damages the light-sensitive cells that line the retina.
For Second Sight, FDA approval follows more than 20 years of development, two clinical trials and more than $200 million in funding—half from the National Eye Institute, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, and the rest from private investors. The Argus II has been approved for use in Europe since 2011 and implanted in 30 clinical-trial patients since 2007. The FDA’s Ophthalmic Devices Advisory Panel in September 2012 voted unanimously to recommend approval.
The Argus II includes a small video camera, a transmitter mounted on a pair of eyeglasses, a video processing unit and a 60-electrode implanted retinal prosthesis that replaces the function of degenerated cells in the retina, the membrane lining the inside of the eye. Although it does not fully restore vision, this setup can improve a patient’s ability to perceive images and movement, using the video processing unit to transform images from the video camera into electronic data that is wirelessly transmitted to the retinal prosthesis.
This genetic condition, which affects, as the article points out, "about one in 4,000 people in the US and about 1.5 million people worldwide—kills the retina’s photoreceptors, the rod and cone cells that convert light into electrical signals transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain’s visual cortex for processing."

There are other retinal technologies being developed in the U.S. and Britain that harness our modern understanding of electrical engineering, brain neural codes and light sensors that show some promise for other more common eye diseases that affect millions. For example, on the horizon is a technology that will alleviate the widespread effects of macular degeneration, a disease that often affects the elderly.

You can read the rest of the article at [Scientific American]

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