Scientific advances continue to make the impossible seem possible for people all around the world suffering from retinal degenerative diseases.
More than 30 million people worldwide are affected by retinal degenerative diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Retinis pigmentosa is an eye disease that causes night-blindness and a loss of peripheral vision through the progressive degeneration of the retina. One major symptom of Usher syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, is retinitis pigmentosa.
While not yet widely accessible, advances in bionic retinas are already changing the lives of people with retinitis pigmentosa who are using them in the US and Europe. The system is built around a chip implanted in the eye to mimic the function of photoreceptor cells, combined with a camera mounted in a pair of glasses. The camera sends images to the chip, which converts them to electrical signals to the brain, where they’re interpreted as vision.
As Ophthalmologist Thomas Henderson, M.D. notes, “Even the ability to see shapes and light variations can make a huge difference in quality of life.”
In addition to the bionic retinas, scientists are confident with the medical advances in gene therapy. A single treatment of injecting corrective genes into the cells of the retina to replace defective ones can last several years – possibly even a lifetime. This, along with advances in stem cell research, has many scientists believing that a diagnosis of a degenerative retinal disease isn’t a sentence of a life-long disability.
Photo Source: Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.