Eyeborg for the blind

First U.S. ‘retinal prosthesis’ gets federal approval

A California-based development company has received federal approval for a “bionic eye” to help restore vision to those blinded by retinitis pigmentosa.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System in patients with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that affects about one in 4,000 people in the United States, according to a U.S. Department of Energy press release. Clinical trials demonstrated the Argus II, which was developed by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. in Sylmar, Calif., allowed totally blind patients to detect movements of nearby objects and people as well as identify the position and size of objects.

The device uses a miniature camera mounted in eyeglasses to capture images, which are transmitted to a microprocessor worn on a belt and then converted to an electronic signal sent to a receiver on the eye. The signal is transferred to the optic nerve and the brain, and interpreted as light and dark spots by patients.