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“Artificial retina” wins European approval

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May 30, 2011

The prosthesis that is implanted in and on the eye to give functional vision to the blind

The prosthesis that is implanted in and on the eye to give functional vision to the blind

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The Argus II Retinal Implant from California-based company Second Sight has become the first retinal prosthesis for treatment of the blind approved for sale in Europe. The approval follows a successful clinical trial that ran for almost four years and saw more than 30 patients around the world using the device at home as they went about their daily lives. While the system isn't able to restore normal vision, the majority of trial subjects gained the ability to perceive colors, recognize large letters and locate objects, while two were even able to read short sentences.

Intended for the treatment of degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), the Argus II system works by converting images captured by a miniature video camera housed in the patient's glasses into a series of small electrical impulses that are then transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes implanted onto the patient's retina. These impulses stimulate the retina's remaining cells and result in the perception of patterns of light in the brain. By learning to interpret these visual patterns, the patients were able to gain some functional vision.

The external equipment that includes glasses, a video processing unit (VPU) and a cable

"This 'artificial retina' brings hope to thousands of people with advanced retinal diseases" says David Head, Chief Executive of the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society. "The restoration of an element of vision may bring with it the restoration of independence and mobility that would greatly improve a patient's quality of life."

With the approval granted to sell the Argus II system in the European Economic Area, Second Sight says it plans to make the system available later this year in clinics in France, Switzerland and the UK, with wider availability in the coming months and years. Argus II is not yet approved for sale in the U.S.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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3 Comments

"gained the ability to perceive colors, recognize large letters and locate objects, while two were even able to read short sentences."

Hmm.. Doesn't sound like much. I have -5 and -5.5 diopters and without glasses everything is foggy. Even though I can move around and interact with my surroundings, anything beyond apartment and walking around the house is a long-shot. If I would be blind and had to choose between this and mushrooms - I'd choose the latter. Maybe that's just me..?

Renārs Grebežs
31st May, 2011 @ 12:22 am PDT

As usual, the FDA is proving itself to be an expensive obsolete blundering Govt. labor union / bureaucracy..

bgstrong
31st May, 2011 @ 07:43 am PDT

The problem of touching the nerves are the lost of chances for future higer resolutions implants, but ther is no way to progress. Ther are also non invasive alternatives as eye2021.

gperis
28th February, 2012 @ 02:15 am PST
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