New artificial retina can help restore lost vision - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/11/10

New artificial retina can help restore lost vision

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By Karin McCay| email

Edited by Kristin Beerman | email 

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – We told you about a telescope implanted in the eye to prevent blindness and now there is more hope for the millions losing their vision.  This time, a new device has people seeing and believing they can fight macular degeneration, a terrible sight stealing disease, it's called an artificial retina.

Dean Lloyd is one of just 14 people in the U.S. who lost his vision, but is now seeing a little again through this artificial retina.  The camera on dean's glasses captures an image and sends it wirelessly to an implant in his eye, which stimulates his optic nerve to create an image in Dean Lloyd's brain.

"It's a very rewarding feeling. It's amazing to me that technology that we've developed here at the lab can actually restore someone's sight," said Satinderpal Pannu, and artificial retina project leader.

Dean's implant contains 60 electrodes, which pick up images.  A newer implant features 240 and Dr. Pannu says they have just developed another version that contains 1,000 electrodes, indicating the next generation of this kind of implant will allow the patient to actually see details.

"That's where they actually have useable vision, recognize faces, be able to read," said Dr. Pannu.

Dr. Pannu predicts that in ten years, this implant could reverse blindness in as many as 50 million people in the world who suffer from that, but there is a problem.  The only clinical trials for the artificial retina in the U.S. are run through a California company Second Sight.

Project leaders at Lawrence Livermore say they only have funding through next year. So, right now, they're trying to lobby congress to extend the project's eight million dollar a year budget, to improve the implant and complete the study.

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