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Retina Implant Company Seeks FDA Trial Approval 46

cyachallenge writes with an excerpt from an article in Scientific American: "Several technologies to restore sight to retina-damaged eyes are making headway — one seeks to begin human trials in the U.S. and another has already hit the market in Europe. ... There is no effective treatment for the condition [retinitis pigmentosa], but researchers are making great strides to remedy this through implants that stimulate still-active nerves in the retina, the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye. In mid-November Retina Implant AG got approval to extend the yearlong phase II human clinical trial of its retinal implant outside its native Tubingen, Germany, to five new sites — Oxford, London and Budapest, along with two additional locations in Germany."
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Retina Implant Company Seeks FDA Trial Approval

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  • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @10:22AM (#38369446)

    Anyone know if this would be effective for macular degeneration? This, more than anything else, led to my grandmother's decline in her final years (IMO). Even as her body grew frail and her hearing went bad, her mind stayed sharp because she loved to read, work crosswords, play cards, etc.. But once her sight failed, she was basically locked in her own little world. She only lasted a few more years after that.

  • Re:Augmentation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @10:26AM (#38369492)

    My short and crude analysis of the disease and the treatment indicates this would appear to be a heads up display, essentially overwriting whatever visual signal you have left, if any. I would imagine a high res version would look an awful lot like those "augmented reality" ideas, a perfect video image of a tree overwrites a dark and blurry smudge of a tree.

    Other than the inevitable cataract problems, bionic retinas would seem to be the idea solar powered bionic implant... you've got plenty of light both by design and culturally (like, bionic female chest implants don't get as much sunlight as I feel they require for proper operation) and when bionic retinas are in the dark, they doesn't need to work anyway. No huge power requirements. Unfortunately someone has probably patented this trivial idea already so we'll be stuck with implanted AAA cells in the nostrils for a couple decades, but someday the patent will expire and get out of the way of progress.

  • by PeterM from Berkeley ( 15510 ) <{petermardahl} {at} {}> on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @10:38AM (#38369608) Journal

    I'm not sure these implants, at least at first, would even let people read.

    I think cochlear implants, which can let the deaf "hear", only have something like 16 channels, maximum, that is, 16 frequencies that they respond to.

    It's better than being deaf, but if retinal implants are similar in their capability, I don't know if someone could read with them.


  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @11:05AM (#38369900) Journal
    I suspect that the big limitation would be the resolution of the electrode array. My, admittedly layman's, understanding is that you basically need an electrode for every 'pixel'(and that's the relatively simple case where you are just brute forcing it, not doing really subtle stuff like trying to map color inputs to the nerves that used to take input from the now defunct cones, and greyscale luma values to those formerly served by rods, and such).

    Fabricating really teeny structures is quite mature in silicon MEMS processes; but I don't know whether the same is true in biocompatible, possibly flexible, stuff you can safely implant into somebody's retina without just getting a bunch of scar tissue...

    Given people's tolerance for black and white movies and crap TV reception, remarkably few shades of grey and some lousy, smeary, color are impressively useful for working out what is going on; but only having a 16x16 matrix of that to work with might be a problem... It would be interesting to know exactly how many electrodes you'd need to have in place and functioning to provide various levels of vision reproduction.
  • Re:Augmentation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @12:27PM (#38370970) Homepage Journal

    Other than the inevitable cataract problems

    Cataracts are no longer a problem, there are have been implants for cataracts since 1949 (developed in the UK). The surgery is fairly quick and entirely painless, although it does kind of freak you out when they stick a needle in your eye. However, you're getting a needle in the eye for the retina implant, too.

    You guys still want that HUD? Even though it means getting a needle stck in your eye, maybe more than once like I have?

    Cataract surgery is a piece of cake. A Vitrectomy is pure hell, [] and I would imagine that a retinal implant would involve a vitrectomy. [] BTW, the photos in that second link are not for the squeamish.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.