First bionic eye hits the market
The FDA has approved a new device which will help some sight-impaired people restore part of their vision.
The FDA has just approved a device that will restore vision to sight impaired individuals suffering from retinitis pigmentosa. The affliction is genetic and affects the retina, where light is translated into electrical signals that the brain can interpret, deteriorating it gradually over time. Sufferers will experience a fading peripheral vision, followed by night blindness and eventually complete blindness. Retinitis pigmentosa effects roughly 1 in 4000 people in the US.
The new device, the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, is developed by Second Sight Medical Products, and is now available for approved patients over the age of 25 who can still see some light. The device consists of a series of electrodes which are surgically implanted in the eye of the patient, and a pair of glasses with an attached camera. The electrode bypasses the damages retinal cells, instead feeding electrical signals from the camera directly into the optic nerve.
In the future, the company hopes to treat other conditions, such as macular degeneration, and Second Sight’s CEO, Dr. Robert Greenberg, told the New York Times that in the future, he’s like to bypass the optical nerve entirely, feeding directly into the brain’s visual cortex instead.
One step closer to Star Trek.
Some early adopters of the system report being able to distinguish shapes and boundaries between object, read large letters and differentiate light from dark. “Without the system, I wouldn’t be able to see anything at all, and if you were in front of me and you moved left and right, I’m not going to realize any of this,” said Elias Konstantopolous, one of 50 people in the clinical trials for the bionic eye, “When you have nothing, this is something. It’s a lot.”