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First FDA Approved Bionic Eye Coming to U.S.

After more than 20 years in the making, the world's first FDA approved bionic eye will soon be launching commercially in the United States.
After more than 20 years in the making, the world's first FDA approved bionic eye will soon be launching commercially in the United States. The device could help the tens of thousands of people who suffer from a  rare, degenerative eye disease that can cause vision loss.

Attorney Dean Lloyd suffers from retinitis pigmentosa-- a degenerative eye disease which destroys photoreceptors cells - and impedes a person's ability to detect light. "I saw nothing except maybe I could ascertain day from night time," Lloyd explains.


Now, a device 20-years in the making, that will soon be commercially available in the u-s, is helping patients like Lloyd.
"That perception was sort of like a flash of light.  Now I can see boundaries and borders," Lloyd says.

The Argus II by second sight was FDA approved earlier this year -- and patients are being screened at the 12 major U.S. hospitals chosen as implant centers.

The device includes a chip with an array of electrodes that's implanted on the retina, and glasses with a video camera that wirelessly transmits images.

"It converts the video to a 60 pixel image. That then delivers electronic impulses to the 60 little electrodes in the chip that then stimulates the retina to generate a perception or message that the brain could then interpret and understand," explains Dr. Jacque Duncan/Professor of Ophthalmology, UCSF.

The device does not restore vision but patients can detect light and dark, thus identifying an object's location and movement.
"I walk down a sidewalk from a bus stop to my office on a daily basis and I can see where the grass comes up to a sidewalk," Lloyd explains.

"The device is not going to enable them to drive a car or read fine print on a newspaper. But that it might help them enjoy a better quality of life," Dr. Duncan adds.

Lloyd says now he almost feels naked without them.  "They say "Sir, oh your Google Glass look really nice."

Making some take a second look at the first government-approved bionic eye.

Second sight is working on software upgrades to improve resolution and possibly provide color. Second sight anticipates that 100 patients will receive the Argus II in the coming year. The device is priced at around $145,000 and is covered by Medicare.


(Sumi Das, CNET.com for CBS News)

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