New bionic eye implant could change millions of lives

Global Business

A bionic eye is helping give hope to people who lost their vision due to degenerative eye diseases. The retinal eye implant was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year, and it could potentially change millions of lives. CCTV America’s Shraysi Tandon reports.

New bionic eye implant could change millions of lives

A bionic eye is helping give hope to people who lost their vision due to degenerative eye diseases. The retinal eye implant was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year, and it could potentially change millions of lives. CCTV America's Shraysi Tandon reports.

Thirty-three years ago, Larry Hester was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that robbed him of his vision. For the first time in more than 30 years, Hester can finally see light, thanks to a so-called bionic eye.

Paul Hahn, a retinal surgeon from Duke Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina, treated Hester and said the invention of the implant has been significant.

“In the ophthalmology or in the eye world, this is important, because it allows us again, for the first time, to give hope to these patients who were once considered permanently blind,” he said.

The Argus Two retinal prosthesis is a device that comes with a pair of eyeglasses fitted with a camera. The camera captures what the person looks at and sends it to a small computer the patient carries. The computer then sends instructions to the device consisting of a panel of electrodes that are surgically implanted in the eye.

The device has a microchip that essentially bypasses the damaged retina and sends a signal to the brain, giving the patient the ability to have light and dark vision.

“The light is so basic and it probably wouldn’t have significance to anyone else, but to me it’s meaning I can see light, and we can go from here,” Hester said.

Hester is now the seventh person in the U.S. to receive the retinal implant. Doctors are confident that with further technological advancements, patients who are blind will have a second chance.

“I predict that certainly within our lifetime, we will have devices that will provide an artificial level of vision that will allow patients to recognize faces and hopefully read and maybe drive again as well,” Hahn said.

The Argus Two is available in Europe and the U.S. where officials have approved the device for medicare reimbursement.