The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System is surgically implanted in one eye. The individual wears glasses equipped with a camera that captures images and converts them into a series of small electrical pulses. The pulses are transmitted wirelessly to the prosthesis and its array of electrodes on the surface of the retina. These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina’s remaining cells, resulting in the corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain. The patient then learns to interpret these visual patterns, thereby regaining some visual function.

Electrode array of the implant

Image of the glasses the implant recipient wears to work with the prosthesis system.

“We are pleased with both patients’ progress at this point, and we are hopeful and optimistic that the artificial retina will enable them to see objects, light and people standing before them,” says Dr. Jayasundera, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the U-M Medical School. “We believe the device will help them navigate a little better at home, be more independent, and have the pleasure of seeing things that the rest of us take for granted.”

Linda Schulte, who received the first implant, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when she was in her forties. Now 65, Mrs. Schulte hopes the device will allow her to travel and to “enjoy life a little more.” But most important, she wants to see her 10 grandchildren – to the extent that she can.

Retina surgeons at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center have performed the first — and second — surgeries in the United States to implant an artificial retina, or “bionic eye,” since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the device last year.

Read: First Two Retinal Prosthesis Implant Procedures in U.S. Performed Since FDA Approval