UPMC First in the U.S. to Implant Wireless Retinal Device for Advanced AMD

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center announced they have implanted the first patient in the United States with a new wireless retinal device as part of a clinical trial aimed at restoring partial sight to patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The system, called PRIMA, is designed to restore sight in patients blinded by retinal degeneration. It consists of a 2×2 millimetre, 30-micron thick miniaturized wireless photovoltaic chip, placed under the damaged retina and works in tandem with augmented reality glasses that have a built-in miniaturized camera and infrared projector.

The chip acts like a tiny artificial retina, made up of 378 tiny electrodes that convert infrared light from the glasses to electrical signals that are carried by the optic nerve to the brain. After receiving the implant, patients undergo an intensive rehabilitation program that trains their brains to understand and interpret the signals from the implant in combination with their remaining natural vision. Compared to earlier-generation implants, PRIMA is wireless and has significantly more electrodes, which allows for the transmission of more visual information.

“We are proud to be the first center in the United States to test this next generation retinal implant that could help treat an incurable disease like AMD,” said José-Alain Sahel, M.D., director of the UPMC Eye Center.

The UPMC feasibility trial is running in parallel with the first-in-human trial in France, which involves five patients with advanced AMD, who now have been followed for more than a year. The 12-month results from the French study demonstrated the ability of most patients to identify sequences of letters and there were no device-related serious adverse effects.

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