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America Gets First Bionic Eye

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A new retinal prosthesis that partially restores sight for those suffering from degenerative eye disease, has finally received FDA approval the American market.

Created by Second Sight, the Argus II retinal prosthesis took more than 15 years to develop, and was approved for the European market back in 2011. But thanks to FDA’s seemingly endless amount of red tape, Second Sight didn’t receive the go ahead for sale in the U.S.A., until now.

Argus II restores partial sight to people with a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), by replacing the light-sensing cells at the back of the retina with small electrodes.

The electrodes, which are implanted in the eye, is connected to a small camera mounted on glasses, and a visual processor that the user wears around the waist. Images from the camera are sent to the processor and back to the glasses, where it is wirelessly transmitted to the implanted electronics.

The system works for those with RP since the disease only affects the light-sensing cells in the retina, but leaves the optic nerve and the rest of the visual system intact.

The current model supports 60 electrodes, which is equivalent to watching a moving image at a resolution of 60 pixels. However it is sufficient to pick out objects, and allows the user to move around unaided.

An estimated 100,000 people in the U.S. suffer from, RP. The company hopes its device will go some way to helping those people regain some of their eyesight.

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