A 10-person evaluation of the Artificial Silicon Retina (ASR) microchip, developed by Optobionics (Naperville, Illinois), is being expanded to 20 patients at three sites: Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Wilmer Eye Institute), Emory University School of Medicine/Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, and Rush University Medical Center.
To reduce the chance of inadvertent bias in the forthcoming ASR chip evaluation, researchers will randomly select which eyes of the patients will receive the chips. In addition, postoperative vision testers will not be told which eyes received the implanted devices. In the prior study, all participants received chips in their right eyes.
The ASR chip has 5,000 microscopic solar cells that convert light into electrical impulses. The devices are used to replace damaged photoreceptors in people with retinal degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.
Researchers studying the ASR chip report in the February 2005 Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science that electrical impulses from the implanted device — and/or the mere presence of a foreign body in the eye — may have a neurotrophic (protective) effect on photoreceptors in rats. Further research is needed to better understand the effects and benefits of the ASR chip and other retinal prostheses.
Researchers at the University of Southern California, in collaboration with Second Sight LLC, are also evaluating the safety and efficacy of a retinal prosthesis in people. FFB provided funding for earlier phases of this research.
Numerous other entities throughout the world are developing similar devices with the goal of restoring vision in people who are blind. FFB will report on key developments in this work as they occur.
"The development of retinal prostheses is important, because few other alternatives exist for people who have end-stage vision loss," says Stephen Rose, chief research officer at The Foundation. “We look forward to learning more about these devices as study results are published in peer-reviewed journals."
DISCLAIMER: Physicians differ in their approach to incorporating research results into their clinical practice. You should always consult with and be guided by your Physician’s advice when considering treatment based on research results.