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FDA Approves Device That Will Give Partial Sight to Blind

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It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the Food and Drug Administration recently approved a device that will provide the blind with partial vision. The technology, called an artificial retina or ARGUS II, will allow people with certain types of bindness to detect crosswalks on the street, people and cars, and even large letters and numbers.

The artificial retina is just one breakthrough in sight technology that is rapidly advancing in the world of vision research. It is a sheet of electrodes implanted into the eye, and the patient is given a camera attached to a set of glasses. This camera is able to process the visual signals and bypass the damaged part of the retina and be transmitted to the brain.

Currently, the device is meant for those individuals that suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, in which the cells in the eyes that are meant to take in light deteriorate. About 100,000 Americans suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, but only about 10,000 to 15,000 will be eligible for the new device. However, scientists hope that the device will also be helpful to others with sight impairments, including macular degeneration. The device was created over the course of 20 years and will be available at 7 hospitals across the U.S. It will cost about $150,000, not including surgery and training costs. For those who have already gotten to use the device, it is a miracle that they say they couldn't live without.