The Argus II system is a retinal implant device developed by Second Sight Medical. The device uses a camera mounted on special glasses that sends a signal to an electronic receiver with 60 electrodes implanted inside the eye. The receiver sends signals to the retina that travel through the optic nerve to the brain, where they can be interpreted as a visual picture.
It was recently implanted in Lisa Kulik, a 55-year old patient who became the first person west of the Mississippi to receive the FDA-approved Argus II retinal prosthesis Kulik has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that progressively robs its victims of sight. Kulik received the implant during a four-hour surgery at Keck Medicine of University of Southern California, performed by Lisa Olmos de Koo, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Keck School, with Humayun assisting. Kulik is now undergoing several months of follow-up testing while she trains her brain to see in a new way. Some Argus II patients can see contrast well enough to sort light and dark clothing, and to see the outlines of doors, bushes, people and other objects.
When Kulik wore the Argus II to a 4th of July celebration, she saw flashes in her field of vision when fireworks went off. She’s also seen the moon and can see contrast between grass and the sidewalk.
Kulik is also participating in a study to determine whether partial restoration of vision has an impact on how the brain processes information. She returns to USC periodically for magnetic imaging resonation (MRI) tests, as well as testing with the Argus II.
Future applications of the device are aimed at age-related macular degeneration, a similar but more common disease than RP. The prosthesis is manufactured and sold by Second Sight Medical Products in Sylmar, California (US).
Clinical trials for the Argus II at USC began in 2007, with more than 30 patients implanted with the device as part of the trial. Eligible patients must be over the age of 25, have little or no light perception in both eyes and have had previous sight.