First artificial retina approved in U.S.

First artificial retina approved in U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved first artificial retina. The device is meant to aid people with a disorder called advanced retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that slowly damages cells on the retina that give the eye sensitivity to light. Over time, this reduces the eye’s ability to distinguish light from dark, and eventually leads to blindness.

The newly approved artificial retina, dubbed the Argus II system, involves a surgically implanted retina and a pair of eyeglasses with a small video camera and video processor. Images from the video camera are transmitted to the brain through 55 electrodes on the implanted retina, which then translates the images into something the patient can see.

The Argus II system was approved in Europe in 2011 and costs about $100,000. The device’s manufacturer hopes to have the artificial retina covered by Medicare and available in the U.S. later this year.

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