This week, the Food and Drug Administration sanctioned a groundbreaking first in technology that may restore the gift of sight for visually impaired persons.
The artificial retina, as it’s described, has been given a green light by the FDA. It’s being called the first treatment to give limited vision to individuals who are blind.
The device allows people with a certain type of blindness to detect crosswalks on the street, the presence of people or cars, and sometimes even large numbers or letters.
“This is just the beginning,” Grace Shen, a director of the retinal diseases program at the National Eye Institute, which helped finance the artificial retina research, tells The New York Times.
The artificial retina is described as a layer of electrodes implanted directly into the eye. Patients undergoing the procedure are also provided with special glasses fitted with an attached camera and corresponding portable video processor. All combined in a system called Argus II, the application of technology allows visual signals to work around damaged portions of the retina and reach the brain.
“The questions that this particular device raised for FDA were very new,” admits Dr. Malvina Eydelman, of the FDA. “It’s a big step forward for the whole ophthalmology field.”