Future Technology

Bionic Eyes Are Coming: World’s First Implantable Artificial Retina Approved by FDA

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the world’s first implantable artificial retina that treats people suffering from a rare optic disorder. The medical advancement a signal that bionic eyes are coming and considered a huge leap in curing blindness someday.

The device, called Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, created by Second Sight Medical Products was approved for patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). It is a rare inherited eye disease that affects the retina’s ability to respond to light.

People with RP first lose their peripheral vision. Then they eventually find it difficult to see at night while their central vision also deteriorates. This, later on, leads to blindness.

While the device does not restore a person’s sight completely, it allows them to distinguish light and dark. The director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, said the artificial retina helps adults with RP to “be more mobile” and “perform day-to-day activities.”

Bionic Eyes Are Coming: Implantable Artificial Retina

The visual prosthesis contains a panel of electrodes that is surgically implanted in the patient’s eyes. The damaged retina are bypassed with images sent from the camera, which is attached on the glasses, to the electrodes. The optic nerves are then tapped to signal the brain of the perceived images.

This allows the patients to differentiate light from dark and recognize boundaries from objects. Through the device, the patients can live more independently.

Second Sight also aims to develop the tech further. Eventually, they want to directly implant the electrodes into the brain’s cortex and cure blindness.

Argus II’s Achievements

It was approved by FDA for adults, aged 25 and above, with RP only. The agency approved it after 19 out of 30 participants did not experience any adverse effects after the surgery.

The participants were also reported to finally be able to perform basic tasks that they could not do before with the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System. With that, the FDA announced the artificial retina as a humanitarian use device.

Bionic eyes are coming and they could address the need of around 4,000 people in the U.S. alone suffering from RP, according to national statistics. Further advancements of such medical studies would soon open up more paths to one day reverse blindness and give hope to people who have lost their sight.


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