People with vision loss due to retinal disease may be able to use a bionic system to improve sight in the near future. Pixium Vision is running a feasibility study on is PRIMA System, and they got better-than-expected results. The study is on patients with dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Currently, medical science cannot restore vision in those with retinal dystrophies. The PRIMA System may lead to vision restoration for patients with Macular Degeneration, Retinitis Pigmentosa and other retinal diseases.
The PRIMA system has two main components: special glasses with a pocket computer, and a tiny microchip implanted in the back of the eye. The eye surgeon inserts the implant behind the retina. This surgery is minimally invasive, and so far, none of the patients have had adverse side-effects. The chip is the size of a speck of dust: only 2 mm x 2 mm x 30 microns in size. The chip is photovoltaic, so it is powered by light itself. It contains 378 electrodes. In the past, implants needed a battery. Therefore, solar powered implants are a huge improvement.
The glasses have a mini camera that picks up visual information. The data are then processed in the pocket computer. The computer uses algorithms to pick out useful visual information. The data goes back to the glasses, which project visual information through the eye and to the implanted chip. From here, the chip sends electrical signals down the optic nerve to the brain.
Patients need rehabilitation services to make use of the PRIMA System. They need to learn how to make the best use of the visual data. With practice, the patients can start to “see” monochrome shapes. Some were able to see letters and sequences of letters again.
Dry macular degeneration does not affect peripheral vision. The PRIMA system does not impact peripheral vision for these types of patients.
The initial feasibility study was on five patients in France. The company plans to continue to research and develop this technology.
Source: Press Release, 7/18/2019. Pixium Vision announced sustained success of its PRIMA System after 12-months in dry age-related macular degeneration patients.