The use of artificial retinas can help those patients who are suffering from eye disease and vision loss

Researchers from the University of Southern California Doheny Eye Institute recently announced that they are one step closer to the next generation of retinal implants after approval for study from the Food and Drug Administration.  During an annual meeting at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, Mark Humayun, professor of ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and associate director of research at the Doheny Retina Institute, announced the FDA approval of the Investigational Device Exemption, which will allow USC researchers to conduct studies of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System -- an electronic implant aimed at treating patients suffering from retinis pigemtosa, a heritable eye disease.

The Argus II implant contains 60 electrodes, where as the first generation implant only had 16 electrodes -- the electrodes help allow high-resolution images.  Surgery and recovery times will also be reduced since the Argus II is one quarter of the size of the Argus I.  The implant works because the electrode array is surgically attached to the retina so it can be used with a camera and video processing system.

According to the findings from six previous patients who have had the implants surgically placed during the trial, researchers discovered that the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System does help blind patients detect light and sometimes even "distinguish between objects such as a cup or plate."  The first six subjects also have been able to perceive motion in the environment due to the implants.

The technology is important because the Argus II could be used to help treat millions of people who suffer from age-related macular degeneration, a problem that is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness of Americans who are aged 65 or older.  Testing with the Argus II will involve patients who are 50 years or older and suffer from AMD or RP.

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