Duke University Hospital has been chosen as one of the first sites in the nation to offer a bionic eye to severely blind patients.
The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, developed by the company Second Sight, is the result of more than 20 years of research and development to restore some functional vision to patients with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa.
The key element of the bionic eye is implanted around the eyeball, with a microarray of 60 electrodes inside, stimulating a part of the retina that is still intact. Dark glasses worn on the face contain a miniature camera.
“That camera sends a signal to a computer – worn around the belt – sends a wireless signal to the implant on the eye, relaying a signal to the optic nerve and vision center of the brain. Intensive training will help the patient’s brain interpret the high-contrast images, which may help them recognize open doors or identify their toothbrush and toothpaste in a bathroom, for example.
“It’s not giving them the ability to read the newspaper, but it is giving them the ability to function and live independently.”