Bionic Eye Being Tested for Dry AMD
The Argus II retinal prosthesis, commonly known as the "Bionic Eye," is now being tested in people with late-stage dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Until now, the device had only been used in people with retinitis pigmentosa, which is less common than dry AMD.
The Argus II system was designed to restore some useful vision in patients with significant vision loss, allowing them to see patterns of light that the brain learns to interpret as an image. The system uses a miniature video camera stored in the patient's glasses to send visual information to a small computerized video processing unit, which is usually worn in a pocket. This computer turns the image to electronic signals that are sent wirelessly to an electronic device implanted on the retina, the layer of light-sensing cells lining the back of the eye.
Dry AMD, which effects an estimated 9 million Americans, is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula — the part of the retina in the back of the eye responsible for detailed central vision. Vision loss caused by dry AMD is usually gradual and occurs in the central part of the eye, making activities like reading or watching television difficult.
Last month, a study found the Argus II system to be safe and beneficial in people with retinitis pigmentosa. Although it will take several years for the dry AMD study to conclude and announce results, it's encouraging to see innovative technologies being tested in people with different eye diseases.