Microchip and the Eye

Recently, there has been information released regarding microchips to augment retinal function in diseases, primarily retinitis pigmentosa. These microchips are being investigated as part of a medical device study and the initial results are from the phase one study focusing on the safety of these devices. It appears that at least the device in the subretinal space is tolerated by the human eye.

As the purpose of the phase one trial is merely safety, we really cannot draw any conclusions in regards to retinal function from the current results. The current results only support the right of the chip manufacturers to proceed with phase two and phase three clinical trials. These trials will be focused on the efficacy of the implant relative to visual function. All of the chips, of which there are several different designs being brought to the marketplace, do require initial adult testing before any pediatric applications may be available.

We are very enthusiastic about the progress made in the area of microelectronics relative to these microchips, but there also are many other avenues of visual rehabilitation being addressed. In the biologic venue, stem cells, clone cells, and tissue manipulation are still being pursued. In the electronic areas, cortical implants are also being pursued. So there are a variety of options being examined for visual rehabilitation, which hopefully will yield useful results for adult and pediatric patients with blinding retinal diseases.

The Argus II prosthetic retinal device made by Second Sight Medical Products was FDA approved for human use in February, 2013.