Feb. 19, 2005 An expanded clinical trial conducted by Optobionics Corporation involving the implantation of a retina mircrochip has allowed Emory Eye Center and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research & Development Center to implant the device in several patients. The patients all have retinitis pigmentosa with moderate-to-severe vision loss. Three centers in the United States have been chosen to conduct the expanded trial. Other than Emory and the VA Rehabilitation R&D Center they include Rush University Medical Center's Department of Ophthalmology and the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Medical Center.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a pathologic condition that is hereditary and causes progressive retinal degeneration in both eyes. It is a general term for a number of diseases that predominantly affect the photoreceptor layer or "light sensing" cells of the retina. Night blindness develops, usually in childhood, followed by loss of peripheral visual field, progressing over many years to tunnel vision and finally blindness.
At Emory Eye Center retina specialists Thomas M. Aaberg, Sr. and Jiong Yan performed the surgery recently on five patients. Another two patients are planned for mid-February.
"This experimental device may make it possible for those with retinitis pigmentosa to have a much better quality of life," says Dr. Aaberg. "We are excited to be able to participate in this clinical trial as part of Emory Eye Center's ongoing research and surgical procedures to fight blinding eye disease. Because Emory and the Atlanta VA Rehabilitation R&D Center met the FDA and Optobionics criteria that included surgical expertise, a strong research component and an established patient base of degenerative retinal diseases, we were able to be a part of this important study."
Pre- and post-surgery patients are evaluated by a team of researchers working at the Eye Center and the VA Rehabilitation R&D Center including Ronald A. Schuchard, PhD and Claire Barnes, PhD.
"This clinical trial will help evaluate the potential of Optobionics' ASR® device to provide improved functional vision or to at least slow down the progressive vision loss" says Dr. Schuchard, principal investigator for the project. "There are very few vision rehabilitative options for patients with retinal degenerative diseases, so the opportunity to be part of evaluating an experimental rehabilitative intervention for these patients is very exciting."
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