Volume 5 Issue 5 - March 01, 2007

Artificial retina implant brings hope to blind people

D.N.I.S. News Network – U.S. Researchers recently revealed that a tiny electrical implant that attaches to the retina may some day restore partial sight to millions of people who lose sight by age-related macular degeneration.

At the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Fransisco, the researchers stated that the device is part of a new class of ‘smart’ prostheses that link with the brain and nervous system to restore function lost to disease or injury. The artificial retina is designed to take the place of photoreceptor cells in the brain that are charged with capturing and processing light.

Professor of Ophtalmology at the University of Southern California Dr. Mark Humayun said, “We anticipate this technology will help blind patients who have lost their sight through macular degeneration.” Dr. Humayun and is colleagues have joined hands with the privately held Second Sight Medical Products to develop the implant, which has just got clearance from U.S. regulators to test a second-generation device in a U.S. clinical trial.

The device consists of a tiny camera mounted on a pair of glasses that transmits information to the implant attached to the outside of the eyeball with a cable running to the retina in the back of the eye. The patient wears a pager-sized transmitter on his belt, which handles the processing and powers the device.

An early version of the device, which is in the early stages of human clinical testing, was implanted in six patients who fared far better than its makers expected. It allowed people who had been blind for years to distinguish between simple objects such as a plate, a knife, etc. And now the U.S. clinical trial will enroll 50 to 75 patients in five U.S.centres, who will be followed for one or two years. If this proves successful, the artificial retina could be on the U.S. market in two years’ time.

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