The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that a bionic eye was approved that could help treat certain cases of blindness.
The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System was developed by Second Sight Medical Products Inc. and works by sending electrical stimulation to parts of the eye in order to induce vision. The device was developed specifically to help people who are afflicted with retinitis pigmentosa, which damages light-sensitive cells that line the retina and cause a gradual loss of vision that may lead to overall blindness.
The details of the FDA's announcement were posted in a statement that allows the first bionic eye allowed by regulators to go into development. The FDA said that while the Argus II will not completely restore vision for the blind, it is a step in the right direction.
"While the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System will not restore vision to patients, it may allow them to detect light and dark in the environment, aiding them in identifying the location or movement of objects or people," the FDA wrote in the Feb. 14 statement.
The bionic eye has a video camera with a transmitter placed on a set of eyeglasses and a separate unit that processes the images taken into electronic data. The implanted retinal prosthesis then receives the data, which helps the patient develop their own image of what the video camera is viewing.
This new technology comes with a hefty price as each bionic eye is reportedly worth around $100,000, according to Business Week.
Second Sight CEO Robert Greenberg now hopes he can help people in the United States who have been blinded by the genetic disease.
"This is a game changer in sight-affecting diseases, that represents a huge step forward for the field and for these patients who were without any available treatment options until now," Greenberg said Greenberg.
The bionic eye has already been approved for use in Europe and is expected to be available in the U.S. by the end of the year.