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.