Inherited Retinal Disease

Are visual prostheses the future treatment of inherited retinal degenerations?

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To fill the unmet medical need of complex chronic diseases, such as retinal diseases, a multifaceted approach, incorporating pharmacological therapy, gene therapy, cell-based therapy, and more, is needed, said Mark S. Humayun, MD, PhD during his presentation at AAO 2020 Virtual. Visual prostheses, or retinal implants, are one area that is showing promise in treating inherited retinal degenerations and filling this gap in care.

Currently, the Argus II, an epiretinal prosthesis, is approved in the United States as a medical implant for IRDs.

“The Argus II uses a camera mounted on special glasses that send a video signal to an electronic receiver connected to a 60-electrode array implanted in the eye,” said Dr Humayun.  Production on the device, however, is currently suspended as its manufacture focuses on developing a visual cortical prosthesis.

A subretinal prosthesis (Prima System) is currently in early-stage clinical trials. Dr Humayun said that technology will be limited to use in the retina but has shown promise.

Although the eye is one of the parts of the body implants are most commonly used, with 3.3 million implants done every year in the United States, Dr Humayun warns that training with these new devices is very important to realize better visual gains. These implants are not like interocular lens implants where after implantation most patients can see very well. They do require training with the device. They do require custom fit the device to make sure all the currents match up properly to get the best visual function,” he said.

As improvements in software and hardware are underway, the visual restoration provided by visual prostheses will continue to be improved.

Humayun MS, et al. Bioeletronic Artificial Sight. Presented at: AAO 2020 Virtual.

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