Artificial Retina Bringing Sight Back to Retinitis Pigmentosa Patients

CBS News is reporting that a implanted artificial retina has been approved by European health officials.

The device is offering partial sight to people who have become blind due to the condition retinitis pigmentosa.

The report describes how a man who had lost his sight completely at age 35 is now able to make out shapes and outlines.  As described by CBS: “The device starts with a tiny video camera mounted in a pair of glasses. A transmitter in the glasses sends the images to chip implanted on the back of the damaged eye. There, 60 electrodes send the image along the optic nerve straight to the brain.”

Other Artificial Retina News

Scientists through the US Department of Energy are testing artificial retinas that they hope can restore partial sight to people who’ve lost their vision to the most common causes of blindness.

The Sylmar, Calif., company produced the devices for the U.S. Energy Department’s Artificial Retina Project. The department has been engaged in biological research since the atomic bomb tests of the 1950s raised fears of radiation poisoning.

The current version is being tested on 17 blind people in the U.S. and Europe, and more patients are being enrolled. At a retina conference in October, patients reported improvements in orientation and mobility. They were able to find a door from 20 feet away and to follow a line on the floor for 20 feet.

Meanwhile, researchers in the Energy Department’s National Laboratories are creating a third-generation artificial retina. Much smaller than its predecessors, the device will contain 200 or more electrodes on a thin, flexible film that curves to fit the shape of the retina. Human tests are scheduled to begin in 2011.

For more information, go to http://artificialretina.energy.gov/index.shtml