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Saturday 1 August 2015

World First Bionic Eye Implant


First Bionic Eye Implant – Common Cause of Loss of Sight

The first bionic eye implant in a patient with the most common cause of loss of sight in the developed age, has been conducted by surgeons in Manchester. The bionic eye implant known as the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System – Argus II, was fitted as a part of a continuing research in order to access its efficacy in patients having dry age related macular degeneration – AMD which is condition accounting for 80-90% of all cases of AMD.

The main cause of vision loss among seniors is AMD which tends to affect over 14% of the individuals of 80 years and above in the US. This condition could cause damage to the macula which is a part of the eye’s retina, essential for central vision, enabling us to see images directly in front of us. In the case of dry AMD, damage is caused to the macula by small white or yellowish deposits known as drusen that forms under the macula resulting in it to deteriorate over a period of time.

As the condition tends to progress, patients experience blurriness in their central vision. However AMD does not result in complete blindness but it could interfere with daily activities like reading, driving, writing, cooking and much more which could affect the ability to recognize faces. Unlike wet AMD, there is presently no treatment option made available for dry AMD.

Argus II Implant

The first patient, Ray Flynn, 80 years had dry age related macular degeneration that had led to the total loss of his central vision. He has been using retinal implant which tends to convert video images from a minute video camera that is worn on the glasses and can now observe the direction of white lines on a computer screen with the use of the retinal implant. Mr Flynn was delighted with the implant and hoping that in time it would improve his sight adequately in helping him with his daily activities such as gardening as well as shopping.

Manufactured by the US firm, Second Sight, the Argus II implant had earlier been used in restoring some vision to patients who were blind due to a rare condition known as retinitis pigmentosa. The surgery at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital was the first time it had been implanted in a patient having age related macular degeneration, that had affected at least half a million people to some extent in the UK.

The operation had taken four hours, led by Paula Stanga, consultant ophthalmologist as well as vitreo-retinal surgeon at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and the professor of ophthalmology together with retinal regeneration at the University of Manchester.

Beginning of a New Era for Loss of Sight

He had informed that Mr Flynn’s progress was remarkable and he could effectively see the outline of people as well as objects and that this could be the beginning of a new era for patient with loss of sight. The bionic eye implant obtains its visual information from a small camera that is mounted on glasses worn by the person.

The images tend to get converted into electrical pulses which are transmitted to an array of electrodes attached to the retina, wirelessly. The electrodes in turn stimulate the retina’s remaining cells that send information to the brain.

Two weeks after the surgery, Mr Flynn, in a test was able to detect the pattern of horizontal, vertical as well as diagonal lines on a computer screen due to the implant. During the test, he had his eyes closed so that the medical team could ensure that the visual information was coming from the camera on his glasses and the implant.

Mr Flynn had informed that it was amazing to be able to see the bars on the screen with his eyes closed. The implant does not provide any highly detailed vision though previous research have indicated that it can help patients in detecting discrete patterns like door frames as well as shapes. Prof Stanga at that time had stated that Mr Flynn could learn in interpreting the images from the implant in a more efficient manner.

Two Types of Age Related Macular Degeneration – Dry/Wet

There are two types of age related macular degeneration namely dry and wet. The dry type could affect around 85% of AMD patents resulting in gradual loss of central vision though it does not tend to affect peripheral vision.

Macular Society has estimated that about 44,000 people tend to develop dry AMD, a year in the UK. As a part of a clinical trial, it is said that four more patients having dry AMD will be receiving the implant at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. Prof Stanga hopes that these patients would develop some central visual function that they could work alongside and complement their peripheral vision.

He has further commented that they `are excited with this trial and hoping that this technology could help people including children having other forms of sight loss’. The cost of Argus II would be around £150,000 inclusive of treatment cost, though all the patients on the trial would be treated free of cost.

The trial is being done in the Manchester Clinical Research Facility which has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research and Wellcome Trust, with the intention of bringing about new drugs as well as medical devices to the patients.

Totally Ground-Breaking Research

The AMD study has been described by Gregoire Cosendai of Second Sight Medical Products as a `totally ground-breaking research. Cathy Yelf of Macular Society has found this as an exciting result and intends following the progress of these trial with much interest.

According to him, macular degeneration could be a devastating condition where several people tend to get affected as they live longer. These are early trails though in time it could lead to useful device for people who tend to lose their central vision.

In Europe and the US, the Argus II has already been approved in the treatment of patients having retinitis pigmentosa – RP, a condition that is characterized by degeneration of the retina affecting several people. Prof Stanga is now hoping that the Argus II could help patients with dry AMD and states that first results of the trail are a complete success and that they are looking forward in treating more dry AMD patients.

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