USC ophthalmologists announce launch of permanent retinal implant study

LOS ANGELES, April 30, 2002-- Ophthalmologists at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California have implanted a permanent retinal prosthesis-also known as a microelectronic retinal implant-into their first patient, as part of an FDA-approved feasibility trial. Researchers hope the retinal prosthesis, intended to stand in for the damaged retinal cells in people suffering from such blinding diseases as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, will one day be able to restore some degree of vision to these patients.

The investigational device was originally conceived of by Mark Humayun, M.D., Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology at the Keck School, associate director of research at the Doheny Retina Institute and Eugene de Juan, Jr., M.D., professor of ophthalmology and chief executive officer of the Doheny Retina Institute. The device has been developed by Valencia, Calif.-based Second Sight, LLC.

Enrollment for the trial will be ongoing, and will be conducted by physicians at the USC Doheny Retina Institute.

The first participant in this trial was chosen in early February, after undergoing a battery of tests to determine, among other things, whether or not his eye was capable of responding to the sort of electrical stimulation given off by the implant.

The surgery took place on Feb. 19 at USC University Hospital's Outpatient Surgery Center and was performed by Humayun, who is also the principal investigator on this FDA-approved investigational trial.

The retinal prosthesis measures 4 millimeters by 5 millimeters, and is studded with 16 electrodes in a 4-by-4 array.

"Each electrode can excite a lot of nerve cells," says Humayun, "though we don't yet know exactly how many."

The device is Second Sight's first model to be permanently implanted in a patient. "This is a major milestone," says Robert Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Second Sight, LLC, the developers of the

Contact: Jon Weiner
University of Southern California

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