This article is by Lauren Tappan:
The Argus II retinal prosthesis, a device that can restore some vision to people who are blind from advanced retinitis pigmentosa (RP), has received U.S. market approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Developed by Second Sight Medical Products, the device will be available later this year in approximately 10 clinical centers across the country. In 2011, the Argus II received marketing approval in Europe. Also known as a “bionic retina,” it is currently the world’s only retinal prosthesis with regulatory approval.
“This is truly an exciting and historic moment in the drive to restore vision in people with advanced retinal degenerative diseases,” says Dr. Stephen Rose, chief research officer of the Foundation. “By restoring some basic vision, the Argus II gives people independence, mobility and, ultimately, improved quality of life.”
The Argus II consists of an external video camera mounted on a pair of sunglasses which sends visual images to a 60-electrode grid surgically implanted on the retina. The grid converts those images to electrical signals, which are sent back to the brain.
Users of the device perceive patterns of light, which the brain learns to interpret as vision. The device has enabled clinical trial participants who are profoundly blind from retinal degeneration to see shapes, recognize large letters and significantly improve mobility.