The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System (developed and manufactured by Second Sight Medical Products Inc, Sylmar, California) is the first artificial retina (also called a bionic eye or retinal microchip) to be approved by the FDA in the United States.
The Argus II can partially restore the sight of people affected by retinal degeneration from diseases like Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) or Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) by creating visual signals and sending the signals to the brain. The device “operates by using a miniature camera mounted in eyeglasses that captures images and wirelessly sends the information to a microprocessor (worn on a belt) that converts the data to an electronic signal and transmits it to a receiver on the eye. The pulses travel to the optic nerve and, ultimately, to the brain, which perceives patterns of light and dark spots corresponding to the electrodes stimulated. Blind individuals can learn to interpret these visual patterns.”
So what’s next? Second Sight says on their website: “We are currently in the process of identifying roughly a dozen world-class centers in the United States that will be offering the Argus II in 2013. We intend to announce these sites in June, in advance of our launch later this year.”