Bionic Eye Implant Approved for U.S. Patients

In an article written by Katherine Bourzac shes says that a company called Second Sight is has developed a prosthetic device that can help people diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that leads to eventual blindness.

The purpose of the device isn’t to help restore vision back to perfect but to restore enough vision that a person blinded by the disease can gain back mobility. The person with the device can make out objects in their enviroment so they can avoid hitting walls or tables and walk down the street safely.

The device named Argus II has three main components: a glasses mounted camera, a portable computer, and a chip implanted near the retina. The camera recored what is in front of the person, the data is sent to the computer and the computer converts the video feed into electric signals which is then sent to the chip in the retina. The electrical signals then are sent to electrodes around the eye that stimulate retinal cells. The electrodes do the work of the light sensing cells that have degraded due to the disease.

About 100,000 peoplee suffer from retinitis pigmentosa in the U.S. and this device is estimated to help about 2,000 people that suffer from the late-phase effect of blindness. The device also costs about $100,000 and lasts  10 years. Existing devices like pacemakers and cochlear implants alos use electrodes to help with body functions but the Argus II is much more advanced because of the number of electrodes it stimulates at one time, 3 times as many as a cochlear implant. FInally, as technology develops the developers hope to help people see colors by providing electrical signals at different frequencies.