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FDA Approves Retinal Prosthesis

The science fiction of yesterday is quickly becoming the reality of today. Medical implants, prosthetics of all kinds, and even replacement organs are just on the fringe of becoming widely available. It may be recorded in the annals of history that Feb. 13, 2013 marked the day that a retinal prosthesis was approved by the FDA.

Second Sight is now able to offer its Argus II system to customers. The word system there is key. This isn’t a bionic eye that is capable of assisting with vision all on its own, instead it is a combination of retinal prosthesis, video recorder and mini computer. The system has been designed for individuals who suffer from late stage retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

Second Sight's Argus II

The Argus II retinal prosthesis system from Second Sight. Courtesy of Second Sight.

According to Foundation Fighting Blindness, RP is defined as:

 … a group of inherited diseases causing retinal degeneration. The cell-rich retina lines the back inside wall of the eye. It is responsible for capturing images from the visual field. People with RP experience a gradual decline in their vision because photoreceptor cells (rods and cones) die. Forms of RP and related diseases include Usher syndrome, Leber’s congenital amaurosis, rod-cone disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and Refsum disease, among others.

The Argus II uses a miniature camera (small enough to fit in a pair of eyeglasses) to capture images of the user’s surroundings. These images are processed by a small computer that attaches to the belt and are transmitted via a second eyeglass attachment to the retinal implant. The implant then produces pulses of electricity that augment the user’s vision by stimulating visual receptors.

Below you’ll find a short video about the Argus II.

Sources: Second Sight, Foundation Fighting Blindness

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