University of Minnesota to offer new retinal prosthesis device in clinical trial

Monday, December 1, 2014

New visual prosthetic gives sight to patients with retinitis pigmentosa

A new device designed to restore some sight in patients blind due to retinitis pigmentosa is now being offered at the University of Minnesota. Designed by Second Sight Medical Products, Argus II is the world’s first FDA approved artificial retina.

Known as a “retinal prosthesis system,” the Argus II is designed to partially restore vision in people with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic condition severely damaging photoreceptors in the eye, causing blindness. 

Argus II replaces electrical pulses meant to be sent by photoreceptor cells in the eye, which are damaged by the disease. A stimulator is implanted inside the eye and connected to an external device, including a video camera and processing unit. The scene is captured and processed, then sent wirelessly to the implanted device for translation into electric pulses for the brain to receive. 

The device is designed to help patients see outlines and shapes, detect light, and help with simple day-to-day tasks. Some also report being able to read large print, a major advancement. 

“We are excited about this device and the opportunities it will bring for our patients. The quality of life of patients with retinitis pigmentosa can be enhanced by this device.” said Sandra Montezuma, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences.

"Being a part of an innovative new therapy that can bring such a boost to a patient’s quality of life is thrilling,” said Dara Koozekanani, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences.

Montezuma and Koozekanani, the implanting surgeons, are working closely with Erik Van Kuijk, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences, who will evaluate the patients for eligibility. Doctors hope to treat ten to twenty patients per year beginning in December 2014.

“One of the most unique things about this device is the holistic health approach accompanying it. There will be a team built around each patient for the rehabilitation process,” said Van Kuijk. “Patients will have access to the team of experts for the entirety of the recovery and rehabilitation process to help them learn to use the device and live with the new freedom of sight.”

Argus II is FDA-approved, but patients meeting the criteria may elect to participate in a post-approval study of the device.

Patients undergo a brief phone consultation to determine if they may be eligible for the Argus II. A clinic visit will follow for those believed to be qualified. To reach the University of Minnesota clinics and discuss the options, patients should call 612-626-3056 or speak with their physicians about referral opportunities.

Funding for this project was provided in part by the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation.

To read more about Argus II from Second Sight Medical Products, click here