When Mark Humayun’s grandmother lost her eyesight as the result of diabetes, he made it his life’s goal to study blindness. Today, he’s not only researching visual impairments; he’s reversing them.
Humayun, a renowned ophthalmologist who holds joint appointments in medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, developed the first, FDA-approved retinal implant to help patients with retinitis pigmentosa—an inherited retinal degenerative disease that affects both eyes—restore their sight.
The system, called Argus II, uses a camera mounted on special glasses to send signals to an electronic receiver with 60 electrodes implanted inside the eye. The receiver then sends signals to the retina that travel through the optic nerve to the brain, where they can be interpreted as a visual picture.
To date, dozens of patients have received the implants through clinical trials and reported being able to make out large-print letters and Fourth of July fireworks, among other images, after years of darkness.
By Sydni Dunn