To date, Second Sight’s Argus II bionic eye has assisted hundreds of patients around the world who suffer from a rare disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP) to be able to see again. That also includes the Unites States as the FDA approved the bionic eye system back in 2013. Recently, a team of doctors at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital have proven that the Argus II also works on the degenerative eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The doctors recently attached an implant onto the retina of 80-year-old retiree Ray Flynn, who lost his central vision because of AMD. While RP can attack anyone regardless of age, AMD typically attacks people from ages of 30 on up, and is one of the most common causes of blindness in adults in that age group. In addition, AMD also destroys an individual’s central vision, whereas those suffering from RP typically lose their peripheral sight.
The implant is only one part of the Argus II system, as it works alongside a tiny eyeglass-mounted camera that captures the patient’s surroundings. The camera takes the footage and converts it into signals that are are wirelessly transmitted to the implant, which then stimulate a person’s remaining retinal cells and causes the cells to send images to the brain. Before and during testing, the team of doctor’s were unsure if the system would work since it was only tested on RP patients, but thankfully the testing went well. The Manchester Royal Eye team plans to outfit four more AMD patients with the system as part of its clinical trial.
Now, this technology won’t give Flynn high-def vision, but he now can at least discern objects in front of him. Head doctor Paulo Stanga told the BBC that Flynn has been “seeing the outline of people and objects very effectively” since the implant was turned on back on July 1st. As time goes on, Flynn’s brain will improve at detecting and interpreting shapes and patterns, a contrast from prior to the operation when he couldn’t see a thing in front of him, as Flynn stated to The Telegraph “before when I was looking at a plant in the garden it was like a honeycomb in the center of my eye. That has now disappeared. I can now walk round the garden and see things.”