Sight will not be restored completely, but the a bionic eye approved last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows individuals who are sight-impaired to detect both light and dark.
The device, approved last Thursday, was created by Second Sight Medical Products and can be used to treat retinitis pigmentosa a rare form of blindness. This blindness is a genetic condition where the retina cells, which translate light rays into the images the brain sees, gradually deteriorate.
People who have RP start losing peripheral vision to start, then, find it difficult to see things are night until they eventually lose their central vision. National statistics say that approximately one out of 4,000 people living in the U.S. are afflicted with RP.
The newly approved artificial retina is known as Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System. It is the first device that is implantable to treat RP and is approved for those 25 years of age or older who suffer from advanced RP, but can see some light.
This device consists of electrodes in a panel that are implanted surgically into the eye and glasses that have a camera attached. The camera works to send images to the panel of electrodes, therefore bypassing the retina and tapping directly into the eye’s optic nerve that signals the person’s brain to “see” the images.
The FDA said that down the line the device might also receive approval to treat additional conditions like macular degeneration, which is the loss of vision in elderly and affects more than 2 million people living in the U.S.
The CEO of Second Sight, Dr. Robert Greenberg, said the company wants to eventually implant the panel of electrodes directly in the cortex of the brain to treat blindness of all kinds.