Wireless Retinal Implants Give Functionally Blind People a Second Lease on Sight

Human eyeball. Blue iris. Stock vector image.Technology has unlocked some marvelous advancements for human civilization, and thanks to the Argus device by Second Sight, it can now provide a cure for blindness!

Granted, this technology is still relatively new, so it hasn’t yet developed to the point where it can cure every form of blindness, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. In particular, the Argus device is designed to help patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa. This is a hereditary condition causing light-sensitive cells in the retina to depreciate to the point where the victim will eventually be unable to see anything but the brightest of lights.

Though this device cannot perfectly give back a person’s sight (at this time, it can only provide black and white images), it can at least restore some functions of the retina, which greatly improves the patient’s ability to see.

The Argus is able to achieve this by sitting directly on the retina and receiving images wirelessly from a special camera mounted on a pair of retrofitted glasses. The device will then convert these images into electromagnetic pulses and send them to the human brain via the optic nerve, much like how a normal retina works.

To achieve this connection to the optic nerve and retina, electronic equipment must first be implanted into the human body. This procedure perhaps presents the designers of the Argus with their greatest challenge, due to the body not being a very hospitable place for electronics. The body’s salt content causes electronics to corrode over time. This means that the designers must make the device small enough to not be obtrusive, yet sturdy enough to withstand these conditions.

The first version of the Argus only had 16 electrodes, which provided the patient with limited sight. The newest versions of Argus come equipped with 60 electrodes, vastly improving sight capabilities. Eventually, Second Sight wishes its product to be able to provide color vision to its patients.

What does this device look like in action? Watch this video.

Looking to the future, this implant technology can be developed to treat many different kinds of blindness, such as optic nerve damage, diabetic retinopathies, glaucoma, and more. However, it may still be some time until we see this day, due to this technology having to directly connect to the brain.

The advancements of technology are something to be optimistic about. When you look at devices like the Argus, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before technology is able to solve the worst of our problems. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.