The world’s first official FDA-approved “bionic eye” has been successfully implanted by surgeons at the University of Michigan Health System. This is a step in helping patients who suffer from degenerative eye disease, allowing them to now detect light and shapes.

Two surgeons implanted the Argus II artificial retina last month, reports The Michigan Daily. Developed by the company Second Sight, the device is made up of a sheet of electrodes, the artificial retina attaches to the eye and is connected to a pair of glasses that have a built-in camera and processor, capturing video from the glasses. The video is then transmitted as pulses to the electrodes, which stimulate the nerve fibers.

Argus II Artificial Retina

It is important to note that the implant does not restore the patient’s sight but rather allows them to see a series of flashes of light that they can learn to translate as visual patterns. Thiran Jayasundera, one of the surgeons who carried out the implantation, explains that it takes the patient one to three months to learn these visual patterns.

Although it doesn’t provide perfect vision, for those suffering from degenerative diseases like Retinitis Pigmentosa, it is certainly an improvement on a condition that would otherwise result in complete blindness.

The FDA approved Argus II last year after being tested on about fifty people thorughout the world. There are now twelve centres designated to carry out the implant procedure. An improved artificial retina, the Alpha IMS, has just received approval from European officials; glasses are not necessary, instead patients can just look around in order to capture the video required to provide the patient with some means of sight.

[Image via Buzzter]