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Thread: Implant to 'cure' blindness within 2 years

  1. #1

    Thumbs up Implant to 'cure' blindness within 2 years

    A "MIRACLE" implant that restores partial sight to the blind could be commercially available in just two years.

    Trials are soon to begin on the latest version of the Argus retinal prosthesis system which allows patients to distinguish different shapes and detect movement.

    Tests of an earlier, less sophisticated prototype surprised and delighted scientists by surpassing all expectations.

    Patients who were expected to see no more than differences between light and dark could discern shapes of everyday objects, such as table knives and coffee cups, and tell when a person was walking past them.

    The new implant, which is smaller and more powerful, is likely to achieve even better results.

    The Argus system, developed at the University of Southern California's Doheny Eye Institute, uses a tiny camera built into a pair of lightweight dark glasses. Signals are sent from the camera to a pager-sized processor worn discreetly by the patient. Using no wires, the processor communicates with a 5mm-wide receiver chip implanted near the eye, which routes the data to tiny metal electrodes on the retina.

    The electrodes stimulate the eye's remaining nerve cells to send visual messages to the brain. Although the implant cannot help people with damage to the optic nerve, it has been shown to restore a meaningful level of sight to completely blind individuals with degenerative diseases that destroy the retina.

    Ultimately, the device may be used to help millions of people suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which causes increasing damage to the retina later in life.

    Professor Mark Humayun, who heads the USC team, said if the new trial was a success the implant could soon be on the market.

    "I think it could be as early as in two years time," he told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.

    At about $30,000 - or £15,000 - the system is not cheap, but Prof Humayun pointed out that the cost roughly matches that of a cochlear implant.

    Whereas the first version used 16 electrodes, each linked to 20 or 30 retinal cells, the new device has 60 and the receiver is a quarter of its previous size.

    Between 50 and 75 patients will be recruited for the trial, to take place at five centres across the US. Each will be monitored for one to two years.

    Prof Humayun said it was only possible to guess what kind of improvement might be possible with the new system.

    "We were completely wrong about the 16 electrodes," he said. "We thought 16 would only give you distinction between light and dark, and some grey scales, but the ability of people to use it surprised us."

    AMERICAN Terry Byland told how the Argus implant changed his life after 13 years of blindness.

    Mr Byland, 58, from Corona, near Los Angeles, suffered from retinitis pigmentosa, a group of inherited eye diseases that damage the retina.

    He was one of six patients who tried out the device developed by scientists at the University of Southern California.

    He said:

    "At the beginning, it was like seeing assembled dots - now it's much more than that. Now my visual cortex which was dormant, is learning to work again."

    He recalled seeing his son, now 18, for the first time since he was five years old.

    "I don't mind saying, there were a few tears wept that day," he said.

  2. #2
    Senior Member NWC4's Avatar
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    Mar 2005

    Do you have a link to the above article?

  3. #3

    Thumbs up here is the link

    Quote Originally Posted by NWC4

    Do you have a link to the above article?

  4. #4
    I read it too. My husband was injured with me. He's blind and has a TBI. It would be so wonderful if he could see again. It would help his rehab so much! Sadly, it probably won't help him because his optic nerves were severed. I tell people that the same science that helps me walk again will be used to restore his sight.
    My blog: Living Life at Butt Level

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