Retinal Device Helps Some With Retinitis Pigmentosa See

More than thirty blind people can now see thanks to new technology that has restored their vision. To date, thirty-eight subjects from the United States, Mexico and Europe with retinitis pigmentosa have received retinal prostheses. While the degree of success has been variable across subjects the results are encouraging.

Procedures currently help individuals with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a disease responsible for roughly 200,000 cases of blindness in the United States.

The restoration process starts with an image captured by a small camera attached to a pair of glasses. After streaming through a video processor, the data is then transferred back through the glasses to a tiny electrode “sheet” implanted on the retina. These electrodes use electrical impulses to communicate visual information to undamaged retinal tissue (just as healthy rods and cones would have done). The result is some degree of sight.

Currently the devices have only 60 electrodes, compared to more than 2 million in HD televisions, so images are still rough. Researchers from Second Sight will follow project participants for the next three years to track progress. They hope to develop versions with 200 and 1000 electrodes in the future.

Editor’s Notes: Certain nutrients have been researched as helping to preserve vision for those with Retinitis Pigmentosa.