First Patients Receive Commercial Implant of Argus II Bionic Retina

January 29, 2014

A grandmother of 10 who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) 25 years ago is one of the first two people to receive an implant of the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System since it became commercially available in the United States. She is hopeful that the device, when activated after she recovers from surgery and receives training, will enable her to travel more and see the movement and activity of her grandchildren.

Also known as a bionic retina, the device was developed by the company Second Sight and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last February. But until now, the artificial retina had only been used by participants in clinical trials.

“It is very exciting for us to see the Argus II reaching more people and enhancing their lives,” says Stephen Rose, Ph.D., chief research officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness, which funded key lab studies of an early version of the device. “While the vision restoration it provides is rudimentary, it is improving their mobility and independence, and enabling them to enjoy their surroundings more.”

The surgeries to implant the two Argus II systems were performed at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center by Thiran Jayasundera, M.D., and David Zacks, M.D., Ph.D. Their work with the Argus is featured in the video below:

Kellogg is one of 12 centers in the United States offering consultations for patients interested in getting the device. The Argus II has also received regulatory approval in Europe.

The device consists of an external video camera mounted on a pair of sunglasses, which sends visual images to a 60-electrode grid surgically implanted on the retina. The grid converts those images to electrical signals, which are sent through the optic nerve to the brain — the path that visual information from the retina normally travels.

Users of the device perceive patterns of light, which the brain learns to interpret as vision. The device has enabled clinical trial participants who are profoundly blind from retinal degeneration to see shapes, recognize large letters and significantly improve mobility.

To be eligible to receive the Argus II, a person must be 25 or older with advanced RP that has led to bare- or no-light perception in both eyes.

Second Sight says that the Kellogg Eye Center has selected additional individuals to receive the artificial retina, and other centers are preparing for their first implants.

For more information on receiving the Argus II, call 1-855-756-3703 or visit Second Sight’s website.

Learn more about the Argus II from the following Foundation posts:

How an FDA-Approved Retinal Prosthesis Came To Be

Getting Better All the Time — a Story of How the Argus II Shed Light on a Patient’s Life