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HomeminewsWorld First Bionic Eye for Macular Degeneration

World First Bionic Eye for Macular Degeneration

A man in his 80s is the first person in the world with dry age related macular degeneration to have a bionic eye successfully implanted and activated.

The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System (“Argus II”) has been developed by United States company Second Sight and approved in the United States and Europe for individuals with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and outer retinal degeneration, respectively. It has been successfully implanted in 30 patients with retinitis pigmentosa, which primarily affects the peripheral vision. Macular degeneration primarily affects the central vision.

Second Sight’s Argus II System was implanted at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital in the United Kingdom by Dr. Paulo Stanga MD, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Vitreoretinal Surgeon at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, Professor of Ophthalmology and Retinal Degeneration at The University of Manchester. The device was activated approximately two weeks after implantation, and initial reports confirmed that the subject is receiving some useful vision from the Argus II system.

“Retinal implants for individuals with agerelated macular degeneration may restore some useful vision in their central visual field, which is non-functional due to degeneration of the photoreceptors. The goal in restoring this central vision is to provide individuals with age related macular degeneration more natural vision and ultimately improve their independence and quality of life. This is totally ground-breaking research, where positive results from the study could provide advanced Dry AMD patients with a new alternative treatment,” said Dr. Stanga.

Retinal implants for individuals with age-related macular degeneration may restore some useful vision in their central visual field

Study subjects will be followed for three years to evaluate safety and utility of the Argus II system on visual function. Pending positive study results, the Second Sight plans to conduct a larger study to support market approvals. Three year results from a multi-centre clinical trial of 30 patients with retinitis pigmentosa who were implanted with the Argus II were positive.


Macular Disease Foundation Australia described recent news of the Argus II implant in a patient with age related macular degeneration as “a most promising development” but acknowledged a truly effective and affordable bionic eye is still a long way off.

“As with all early trials, there is still significantly more research and development required. The device has previously been trialled in a small number of people with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that can cause total blindness, and has allowed these totally blind people to see basic outlines, such as a door.

“Almost everyone with AMD (even the worst cases) will have much better vision than the limited images that the ‘bionic eye’ device currently provides. However, it is hoped that with further development, it will eventually allow the recipient to read, to see faces and watch TV. This will be quite some years away yet, but developments such as this continue to remind us of the extraordinary outcomes that investment in research can deliver.

“This Argus 2 implant currently has very limited availability in the UK and costs around £150,000, although the person in this trial received it for free. It is not currently available in Australia.”


In Australia, Bionic Vision Technologies is in the process of raising AU$10 million to fund the crucial next stage development of its bionic eye technology. The privately held company’s products are based on intellectual property that was generated by Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) a consortium of researchers from organisations including the University of NSW, the Centre for Eye Research Australia, and the Bionics Institute.

BVA successfully implanted prototype bionic eye devices in three patients with retinitis pigmentosa in 2012.