Intraocular epiretinal prosthesis to restore vision in blind humans.
Visual sensations in blind patients suffering from retinal degenerations may be restored by electrical stimulation of retinal neurons using implantable microelectrode arrays. The EPI-RET-3 project was initiated to evaluate a wireless intraocular retinal implant system for human use in terms of safety and efficiency. The implant is a remotely controlled fully intraocular prosthesis consisting of a receiver and a stimulator module. The stimulator is placed onto the retina's surface. Data and energy are transmitted via an inductive link from outside the eye to the implant. The EPI-RET-3 device was implanted into six legally blind patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) for a period of four weeks. The surgery was performed without complications. The implants were activated on days 7, 14 and 27 after implantation. All patients reported visual sensations such as dots, arcs, or lines of different colours and intensities. The required stimulation thresholds were found to be very low. Implantation of the wireless EPI-RET-3 device is safe and the system is suitable to elicit visual sensations in blind RP patients. Major problems in the design and fabrication of a prosthesis for artificial vision could be solved in this approach.