Did you know that blind people can actually see? If your answer was no, then I have a surprise for you! Using certain mechanisms implanted into the eye, people with almost to no vision can have their sight restored. A recent study suggests that these patients can regain some abilities that were previously lost. Some of these abilities include being able to point the direction of a moving bar, passing a visual acuity test, and square localization -locating and touching a white square in random locations on a black monitor- (Finn et al. 2018). These researchers from the Department of Ophthalmology at the Duke University Eye Center conducted a study on what innovation gives the blind an opportunity to see again.
The authors of this article are not the scientists who designed and built this prosthetic device; however, they conducted this study to show the public that there is a possibility that the visually impaired can see again. Hailing from the Duke University Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina, Avni P Finn, Dilraj S Grewal, and Lejla Vajzovic conducted this study on the retinal prosthetic device named “Argus II Retinal Prosthesis Implantation”. There not any “methods of the experiment” because this is not an experiment, but rather a study. Instead, the authors used many sources, in fact, thirty-two sources to be precise, to compile their research together and form a processed and complete review of the new mechanism. This study is extremely up to date since this article was published in June of 2018. This meaning, the article provides relevant information for anyone interested in the newest inventions for retinal prosthetics.
Personally, this topic is extremely intriguing because there is a potential that people who were born blind have the chance to experience vision for the first time. This fact is astonishing to believe as normal people, who have always had access vision, take the gift of vision for granted. Additionally, these prostheses are not only for people who were born blind. There are many diseases that can be helped or even cured with the prosthetics. Argus II especially focuses on a certain disease named: Retinitis pigmentosa. Abbreviated as RP, is a “group of heterogeneous inherited retinal degenerative disorders characterized by progressive rod and cone dysfunction and ensuing photoreceptor loss.” (Finn et al. 2018) The readership should realize that these innovations could someday help themselves. It is a common fact that vision loss is more frequent as somebody ages. So, in the future, when the reader starts to get older and slowly loses the gift of vision that once had in their youth, they will realize that these prosthetics are the future of visionary care. Within the next few years, these new innovations will be tested, perfected, and readily available. So, by the time most readers reach the age where they have significant vision loss due to age, they have the option to use some of these products. Therefore, there is a promising future for prosthetics and could possibly correct other problems.
The Argus II system is designed in a way like no other visionary tool has been before. It involves glasses as a part of the entity; however, the main components of the device must be surgically implanted within the retina. The glasses contain a camera to transmit the video feed to a portable visual processing unit. This transfers the video feed into a wireless radiofrequency (RF) which is then transmitted to a coil inside the eye. “The RF signal is decoded back to an electrical signal and an application-specific internal circuit (ASIC) sets the output command, which passes directly to the intra-ocular retinal stimulator, comprising a 60-microelectrode array, each 200 µm in diameter, covering a 20° field of vision.” (Bloch et al. 2019) In Layman’s terms, The Argus II is a pair of glasses with a camera connected. The camera sends a signal to a surgically implanted mechanism inside the eye. Then that mechanism triggers the retina to process the image from the camera. The Argus II was sent into the European Union in March 2001 in which they fully approved of and encouraged future testing. However, the FDA did not consider the prosthetic until it was approved of on February 14, 2013. The FDA allowed the device to be used, but there was a condition set. This was that the device could only be used on patients with severe to profound RP. The problem with this is that in the USA, only 4000 cases occur per year, which severely limits the amount of testing and available patients.
A few other articles that contain information related to this topic helped the process of finding the article above in which was further explored. One of these articles was an abstract about what different prostheses are and how they affect the eye. The author briefly tells the reader about different retinal prosthetics such as this: “Visual loss caused by outer retinal degeneration in diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration can be reversed by electrical stimulation of the retina or the optic nerve (retinal or optic nerve prostheses, respectively)” (Margalit et al. 2002 p.1). Another site that was found is one from Stanford University that is an experiment testing a prosthetic on a patient with a retinal degenerative disease which leads to blindness. The purpose was to restore partial sight using the prosthetic to stimulate the active neurons still inside the retinas of the patient. This was done using a type of glasses that sends bursts of light into the retina which activates the prosthesis implanted inside the retina. These articles guided the path of further research in which led to the main article. Therefore, these two experiments were critical in the evolution of finding what this article would lead to being.
There is so much more that could build on top of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis Implantation which just has not been discovered yet. This is the foundation of the retinal prosthesis field and can lead to many great things such as someday curing regenerative blindness diseases such as RP. As of right now, there are very little that medical professionals can do to help RP since it is a hereditary disease. However, with the Argus II, researchers can begin trying to find a way to create artificial vision for anyone who needs it. In the near future, we will hopefully have a device that enables every person with visionary problems the ability to see clearly once again. That day will happen because of the magnificent work of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis Implantation.
Bloch E, Luo Y, da Cruz L. 2019. Advances in retinal prosthesis systems. Ther Adv Ophthalmol. 11. doi:10.1177/2515841418817501. [accessed 2020 Sept 9].
Finn AP, Grewal DS, Vajzovic L. 2018. Argus II retinal prosthesis system: a review of patient selection criteria, surgical considerations, and postoperative outcomes. Clin Ophthalmol. 12:1089-1097. doi:10.2147/OPTH.S137525 [accessed 2020 Sept 9]
Margalit E, Maia M, Weiland JD, Greenberg RJ, Fujii GY, Torres G, Piyathaisere DV, O’Hearn TM, Liu W, Lazzi G, et al. 2002. Retinal prosthesis for the blind. Survey of Ophthalmology. 47(4):335–356. doi:10.1016/S0039-6257(02)00311-9. [accessed 2020 Sept 9]
Mathieson K, Loudin J, Goetz G, Huie P, Wang L, Kamins TI, Galambos L, Smith R, Harris JS, Sher A, et al. 2012. Photovoltaic retinal prosthesis with high pixel density. Nature Photonics. 6(6):391-397. doi:10.1038/nphoton.2012.104 [accessed 2020 Sept 9]
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