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Retinal Device May Help People with Vision Loss

March 4th, 2020

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—an eye disease that occurs when a small part of the retina, called the macula, wears down over time—is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. AMD results in dark, blurry areas in the center of vision and significantly impairs the ability to read or drive. Although there is no known cure for AMD, local researchers are testing a new implant that may help restore partial sight. 

University of Pittsburgh researcher and UPMC surgeon Joseph Martel, MD, implanted for the first time in the United States a new retinal device called the PRIMA Bionic Vision System, developed by Pixium Vision. PRIMA consists of a small wireless chip, implanted between retinal cell layers, which acts in tandem with augmented reality glasses and a pocket computer to function like an artificial retina. A related trial in France found that after one year, most patients experienced an increased ability to identify letters and there were no adverse effects of the device reported.

According to Dr. Jose-Alain Shael, M.D., director of the UPMC Eye Center, “Vision research has advanced dramatically in the recent past and UPMC is at the forefront of this revolution. This is the first of many such breakthroughs led by UPMC and Pitt that will benefit patients with vision loss in our community and around the world.”

If you are interested in more information about vision studies, visit the Pitt+Me Eyes and Vision Studies page.