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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

FDA Approves First Retinal Implant

The device will be available through the Keck Medical Center of USC.

USC alum Mark Humayon played a key role in making the device.
USC alum Mark Humayon played a key role in making the device.
On Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration unanimously approved the Argus II system for use in the United States.

USC alumn Mark Humayon, who graduated from the USC Keck School of Medicine and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, played a key role in the making of the device.

The device will now be available through the Keck Medical Center of USC for qualified patients.

Humayan is thrilled to have F.D.A. approval,  stating: "It is incredibly exciting to have FDA approval to begin implanting the Argus II and provide some restoration of vision to patients blinded from RP. In the patients that have been planted to date, the improvement in the quality of life has been invaluable."

The device is an artificial retina system that can provide limited sight to the blind. The Argus II system uses a camera mounted on eyeglasses to take pictures of images. A video processor, worn on the belt, then translates images to pixels of light and dark. The processor sends electronic signals to receivers that hold 60 electrodes inside the eye. These signals are sent along optic nerves to the brain.

The Argus II is manufactured by Second Sight Medical Products to treat people with retinis pigmentosa. This inherited degenerative disease is caused by deterioration of photoreceptor cells.

About 100,000 people are affected by the disease.

Researchers hope to extend the technology to individuals macular degeneration due to age. This is a less severe disease, but it is much more common which is prompting researchers to focus on it.

The Argus II was approved for use in Europe in 2011. 30 patients have been implanted with the Argus II since its clinical trial began in 2007. Humayun performed many of these procedures himself.

The Argus II will be housed in the USC Institute of Biomedical Therapeutics, which has been endowed with $60 million to bring together expert scientists and clinicians to study neural networks. These researchers will focus on those impacted by brain injury, stroke, and eye diseases.

The Doheny Eye Institute at USC funded Humayan's research, and funding for the rest of the project came from private investment, the National Eye Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation. 

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