Could blindness soon be a thing of the past? A California company called Second Sight recently received approval in Europe to sell the Argus II, a $115,000 gadget that can partially restore sight to patients with degenerative eye disease.
The retinal prosthesis bypasses damaged photoreceptors with a mini video camera housed inside a pair of glasses. The camera sends signals to an implanted chip near the retina, which stimulates retinal cells and produces visual light patterns.
Second Sight's system only works for people with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease, because the disease only damages the eye's photoreceptors and leaves retinal cells intact. For these patients, the retinal prosthesis is effective enough that they can recognize objects, see people, and follow movements, according to MIT Technology Review.
Second Sight isn't the only company working on a bionic eye. A startup called Retina Implant AG is also performing trials on a prosthesis to help patients with retinitis pigmentosa. But Europeans eager to get their hands on an implant now should find the Argus II in clinics in Switzerland, France, and the U.K. The device is expected to receive FDA approval next year.