Rochester, N.Y. — The Argus II is a man-made retina with the potential to improve the vision of some visually impaired people. The device was given approval by the Food and Drug Administration Thursday for tests in the United States.
Arugus II, which was developed by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. of Sylmar, California is designed to help those with a rare retinal disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). RP is a condition that damages light sensitive cells in the retina, according to the FDA.
“This acts in place of photo receptor cells,” said Rajeev Ramchadran, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Argus II is made of several components from a pair of glasses with a video camera attached, to implants attached to a patient’s eye to a unit that processes the video.
Doctors implant electrodes into the patient’s retina. Images seen through the camera are then transmitted to the hip unit which helps process the information.
The device makes it easier for patients to identify light and dark images. It is not meant for all visually impaired or blind people, just those with RP.
“It’s only helping people who have diseased photo reception cells, but in the future we may be able to regenerate the whole nerve pathway through the devices that we have,” said Ramchadran.
News of the device is seen as impressive by those in the medical community, but those with RP are not all sold on the device.
“I’d have to give it serious thought as to whether I would try this device,” said Justin Young, a Henrietta man who was born with RP. “At this point I just don’t know.”
Young said he’s glad Argus II was made for those who want it, but he will remain skeptical until the results of its U.S. tests are complete.