Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Clinical Trials for a European Artificial Retina Come to the US

Throughout my life, I’ve had multiple doctors tell me that they think that my vision will be restored in my life time. The research into artificial retinas in the last five years has made me think that this might actually be true. Earlier this month, the European Union authorized the use of the Argus II, a retinal implant that was developed here in the states. This implant uses an external camera to provide images of the person’s surroundings. More exciting though, in my opinion, is the announcement that the Wills Eye Institute will be conducting clinical trials of the Sub-retinal implant that was developed in Germany.

Unlike the Argus II, the sub-retinal implant does not require an external camera to work because the implant is behind the retina. This implant also has over 1500 photo cells, which means that the images the patient sees are clearer. This number is nowhere near the number of photo cells that the human eye has, but it’s a step in the right direction.

According to Retinal Implant A.G.’s website, here are some of the benefits that patients might get from the implant:

Orientation in space

Visual Field between 8 and 12 degrees

Ability to read without visual aids except reading glasses, at least recognizing someone holding two fingers, and recognizing faces

Ability to recognize letters with additional visual aids

These benefits may seem small to some, but for those of us who have lived without usable vision for many years, this is huge. I myself miss reading the most, and although I enjoy reading Braille, I miss being able to enjoy a bookstore or library. I sometimes struggle with whether I want my vision to be restored. A part of me has very much accepted my blindness, but there is a part of me that misses being able to see someone smile or watch a sunset. I think that those of us who have lost our vision rather than never had it, have a harder time deciding whether they would ever want their vision restored if the option was available. At this point, I think I would be a part of a clinical study if it was available to me. I would like to hear from readers about their thoughts on this implant and restoring vision.

If you live in the Philadelphia area or think that you might be a candidate for the upcoming clinical trial I encourage you to contact the Wills Eye Institute.

To learn more about the Wills Eye Institute visit this link: http://www.willseye.org/

To learn more about Retinal Implant AG visit this link: http://www.retina-implant.de/en/about/default.aspx

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