A few days ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a prosthetic device named Argus II that can restore some sight to the blind. Second Sight, the California company responsible for the devise, may now market the retinal prosthetic to patients. Already approved for use through out the European Union in 2011, this is the first approved treatment for the disease in the United States.
While not completely restoring sight to normal (an incredibly complex and nuanced process), the prosthesis aims to restore mobility to people suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that slowly kills off the light-sensing cells in the retina. Argus II allows people to make out general shapes, such as door frames and sidewalks, providing enough information to move in the world without running onto a wall or twisting an ankle, etc.
Costing approximately $100,000, a price based on the device’s expected 10 year life-span, the device has the potential to help an estimated 100,000 people in the United States who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa.
The distinct parts that make up Argus II and how they work together is illustrated in the video below.