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FDA approves Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System

Some patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa will benefit from the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System. It is the first treatment for the inherited eye disorder and will be available for patients who are 25 years and older who have the advanced form of the disease. Retinitis pigmentosa causes the breakdown of cells in the retina and the process begins when people reach their twenties. Patients slowly lose their vision over the years  and the condition eventually leads to blindness. While the newly approved device does not fully restore patients' vision, it will hopefully allow them to detect light and dark, which will enable them to perform daily tasks. The technology involves using a small video camera and transmitter which are mounted on pair of glasses. The wearer of the specially made glasses has electrodes implanted into his or her retina and the images from the camera are converted into electronic data which is then wirelessly transmitted to the electrodes. Of the approximately 100,000 people in the United States afflicted with retinitis pigmentosa, fewer than 4,000 will be eligible for the device under the FDA's approval guidelines. Study results indicate that recipients of the implants are better able to perform daily activities than they were prior to receiving the implants.

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