June 29, 2013 University Hospitals (UH) Eye Institute will be one of the first medical centers in the United States to offer the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System ("Argus II").
The Argus II is the first and only "bionic eye" to be approved in countries throughout the world, including the U.S. It is used to treat patients with late stage retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Argus II was developed by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., located near Los Angeles.
In preparation for the launch of Argus II later this year, implanting centers, including UH, will soon begin to accept consultations for patients with RP. UH is one of a select number of medical centers in 12 major markets in the nation, and the only one in Cleveland and the state of Ohio, chosen by Second Sight to offer the Argus II, which received FDA approval earlier this year.
Argus II works by converting video images captured by a miniature camera, housed in the patient's glasses, into a series of small electrical pulses that are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes on the surface of the retina. These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina's remaining cells resulting in the corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain. Patients then learn to interpret these visual patterns thereby regaining some visual function.
"This is a remarkable breakthrough," said Suber S. Huang, MD, MBA, Director, UH Eye Institute's Center for Retina and Macular Disease, who also served as the Independent Medical Safety Monitor for clinical trials of the system and gave the summary closing to the FDA Ophthalmic devices panel.
"The system offers a profound benefit for people who are blind from RP and who currently have no therapy available to them. Argus II allows patients to reclaim their independence and improve their lives."
RP is a rare inherited, degenerative eye disease that often results in profound vision loss to the level of bare light perception or no light perception. It affects nearly 100,000 Americans. Noted Cleveland businessman and professional sports owner Gordon Gund is blind from this disease.
"We are thrilled that several of the nation's top hospitals will be the first to offer Argus II to patients in the U.S.," said Brian Mech, Vice President of Business Development, Second Sight. "After an intensive and difficult selection process, these sites were chosen for their cutting-edge approach to medicine and unparalleled commitment to patient care. We are confident that RP patients seeking treatment at these centers will benefit greatly from the best-in-class services these sites provide."
Argus II had more than 20 years of work in the field, three clinical trials, more than $100 million in public investment by the National Eye Institute, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation, and an additional $100 million in private investment.
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