Retinal Implant Helps 9 Blind Patients See Again

The Alpha IMS, a retinal implant prosthesis, has successfully allowed nine patients to have their sight restored.

Fitting inside of a patient’s skull, the device includes an implanted chip with wires that run into the retina. Patients control the brightness they experience by adjusting a dial located behind their ear. The device is battery powered via a wireless signal.

The x-ray photograph displayed at the top of this story showcases how the Alpha IMS retinal implant is installed.

The device, just like the already approved and tested Argus II, is meant to restore vision in people who have lost their sight because of certain diseases. One such disease is retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that destroys the light-detecting cells in the eye while leaving vision-processing neurons intact.

The Alpha IMS works by detecting light that enters the eye, allowing for more natural head movement by patients. The Alpha IMS takes advantage of 1500 electrodes that are implanted underneath the retina in order to offer higher resolution images. The new retinal implant product is believed to offer better motion and contrast visuals than other products currently being tested.

The device works by sending image processing signals directly to the brain where they are immediately processed.

The Argus II in comparison uses a camera set on a pair of glasses. Camera signals from the glasses are “displayed” on a grid of 60 electrodes that are implanted over a patient’s retina.

The Argus II was approved last week by the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) and has even been adapted to read Braille by sight instead of touch.

Do you think retinal implants are the future of sight restoration?