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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 fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @10:00AM (#38369248) Journal
    I'm afraid that the results are back and it is retinitis pigmentosa. Your only hope of avoiding permanent blindness is retinal implants.

    Unfortunately, your insurance coverage will only pay for 'retinal implants with special offers'. Not to worry, though, these implants will display offers from our trusted content partners, tailored to your interests as a consumer, only when they detect that your eyes are closed, or otherwise unused.
    • How much will the neuropozyne cost?
    • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

      Ah, a country without Universal Healthcare. How quaint!

    • Of course if you jack off with your eyes closed it will show anything *except* a Victoria's Secret ad. Probably some shit about five-dollar footlongs or applying directly to the forehead.

  • by blackicye ( 760472 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @10:20AM (#38369422)

    How much for the model with the Heads Up Display?

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • I can't wait for the HUD contacts. I would be willing to put in a contact that communicated wirelessly with a computer/phone.

          • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

            That would be cool, but I'll wager you'll see HUD glasses long before you see HUD contacts.

    • How much for the model with the Heads Up Display?

      This is modded Funny but let's be honest with ourselves here: 95% of us thought the exact same thing when we saw "retina implant" in the headline and then were bummed to learn it's just some stupid medical procedure for blind people.

  • 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.

    • 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.


      • Cochlear implants can't match the capabilities of a normal, undamaged ear - but they are good enough to make out speech. Mostly.
      • Well, to read most books you only really technically need to be able to make out two shades, so that's not a big problem as long as the lighting conditions are relatively uniform. Kindles also only have 16 shades of grey and they look pretty damn good.

        • 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.
          • My recollection is that the best designs currently have a few thousand electrodes, and that resolution roughly corresponds to the big E on the eye chart. As you say, it's brute force. For each spatial location, the retina is covered by at least 20 types of ganglion cells (which are getting zapped), each of which send a different signal to the central brain. Each electrode might zap a few cells sensitive to motion in different directions, a few with different color opponency, contrast sensitivity, etc. Beats
          • by jperl ( 1453911 )
            According to this study [], reading requires approximately a field of 3 by 5 degrees. With the retinal implant used (38x40 pixels) a field of view of 11 x 11 degrees was restored.
            I do not think that the number of electrodes is the limiting factor. I guess the size of the electrodes and therefore the resolution achieved is really important. Another thing is that the contrast has to be sufficient to be able to detect things.
      • (if you're talking in terms of resolution of course, it would make things difficult unless you could make out a certain DPI level..)

      • 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

        I always wondered what this would sound like. Wonder no more: Cochlear Implant Trial []

    • Unfortunately, I don't think this particular implant would help. With Macular Degeneration, the retinal damage is not limited to photoreceptors. Depending on if she has the 'wet' or the 'dry' form of MD , there are some treatment options.
      • Thanks for the info. Unfortunately it's too late for my grandma, but she made it to 102, so I'm not complaining. I just always thought she could have lived longer if she'd kept her sight. Frankly, by the time the MD started, I doubt she would have accepted such treatment anyway. At 99, she was already "satisfied" with life, and "ready" to move on.

        • My condolences. My grandmother passed away at 102 as well, this past February. She too said that she was ready to move on.
          • Well that's a coincidence. My grandma also passed in the month of February, back in 2008. Best wishes to them both.

  • by jperl ( 1453911 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @10:49AM (#38369734)
    I lately had to present a paper [] dealing with these retina implants from Germany. It is quite amazing what can be done.
    To have a quick view on what was possible there are some videos as additional material: Videos []
  • When do the attorneys arrive?

  • Carrier IQ is all over this already, no doubt.
  • As someone with RP I welcome this news. As someone that keeps tabs on treatment developments, I imagine that these implants are '10 years away' from being available to me.

  • This is great news for people who want to use lasers for crowd control [].
  • But we can already do better than sticking a Honda air filter [] on people's faces - sweet ;)

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong