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Retina Implant Company Seeks FDA Trial Approval

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the it's-all-fun-and-games-until dept.

Medicine 46

cyachallenge writes with an excerpt from an article in Scientific American: "Several technologies to restore sight to retina-damaged eyes are making headway — one seeks to begin human trials in the U.S. and another has already hit the market in Europe. ... There is no effective treatment for the condition [retinitis pigmentosa], but researchers are making great strides to remedy this through implants that stimulate still-active nerves in the retina, the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye. In mid-November Retina Implant AG got approval to extend the yearlong phase II human clinical trial of its retinal implant outside its native Tubingen, Germany, to five new sites — Oxford, London and Budapest, along with two additional locations in Germany."

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I'm sorry, Sir. (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369248)

I'm afraid that the results are back and it is retinitis pigmentosa. Your only hope of avoiding permanent blindness is retinal implants.

Unfortunately, your insurance coverage will only pay for 'retinal implants with special offers'. Not to worry, though, these implants will display offers from our trusted content partners, tailored to your interests as a consumer, only when they detect that your eyes are closed, or otherwise unused.

Forget the implants (1)

mr.mctibbs (1546773) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369430)

How much will the neuropozyne cost?

Re:Forget the implants (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370510)

I'm pretty sure you only need that with implanted tissues, not implanted devices. I have a CrystaLens [crystalens.com] in my left eye, and I need no antirejection drugs. I know people with other artificial parts [wikipedia.org] and they need no drugs, either. The only person I know taking those drugs has a donated liver and two donated corneas.

By the way, you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370100)

Ah, a country without Universal Healthcare. How quaint!

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38372654)

I wish people would stop saying that like it's really that simple. Spending more money than you make is never an especially good move, particularly when you're a government and the US has problems with that WITHOUT paying for everyone's healthcare. The current system is lousy and needs for but making the government pick up the tab is just ignoring the problem.

Besides, call me callous but there really is just a point where you have to accept that there will always be "haves" and "have nots." If I get cancer, I will never be able to afford the same kind of treatment that Steve Jobs received. It's heart-wrenching to know there are people who have to chose between their medicine and their mortgage. Still, a lot of things in life aren't fair. There are people whose houses are riddled with bullets through no fault of their own and just happened to be born to a family in a certain zip code. There are children whose "parents" couldn't care less about them. Families that are torn apart by the stupid mistakes of complete strangers. All of these things are horrible and there's plenty more that's awful in this country and in this life. Some of it, the government can try to help with: the police can arrest the shooters, assuming that the brass care about the incident and that there's evidence/witnesses; Human Services can keep an eye on at-risk children and take them away if deemed necessary however, many kids fall through the cracks (sometimes with their case workers completely blowing off the entire thing) or end up in even worse situations in foster care.

There's only so much anyone can do and simply making the government foot the bill is like putting a band-aid on a split artery. Healthcare, in particular, is so complicated. And if everyone has to pay for everyone else what level of responsibility do individuals have to society to not do things like blow out their livers partying like John Belushi?

Plus, the high cost is an issue to most people, why would their combined funds diminish their combined problem? My mom had surgery that ended up costing about $500,000 (thank God for the excellent insurance my dad gets for getting shot at for a living, not that you could get it if you became a cop now). Even Bill Gate's and Warren Buffet's combined fortunes would get exhausted before covering even 200,000 of those - that's not even the population size of my city. Now this surgery was very specific (her ankle was basically turned to powder in a car crash, courtesy of a driver whose inability to go straight still baffles me) but things like cancer (all too common) can get up there pretty easily too.

For the longest time, people in favor of national healthcare have pointed to Europe as to why we should do this. I think, given recent events, there's plenty of reason NOT to replicate them. Maybe there's aspects that we can pull from it but I also doubt Congress's ability to do anything more complicated than tie its shoes.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38373262)

Relax cupcake, it was a joke.

However, it seems you've fundamentally misunderstood the way universal healthcare works - the very act of pooling everything together is what reduces the cost. This is not some theory - you can see it in action in every developed nation on earth, except the USA (and the "recent events" in Europe have nothing to do with healthcare and everything to do with certain members of the EU deciding things like "taxes" were optional).

The USA spends more than twice the GDP per capita on healthcare than any other country.

Those surgeries like your mum had, among many others also take place in countries with universal healthcare and they don't cost the patients $500,000. That figure is largely artificial anyway - US costs are enormously inflated due to the way the system is run.

Pooling the resources to reduce the cost is not a new idea, but it is a very effective one.

You might want to read up on how these systems work because dismissing them out of hand through some poorly thought out guesswork, and I assume, Fox News talking points.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38375046)

Different AC here.

You might want to read up on how these systems work because dismissing them out of hand through some poorly thought out guesswork, and I assume, Fox News talking points.

You assume that because you want it to be true, not because anything your parent poster said indicated it. Disagreement with you does not imply brainwashing by some third-party boogeyman.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38378260)

Different AC here.

You might want to read up on how these systems work because dismissing them out of hand through some poorly thought out guesswork, and I assume, Fox News talking points.

You assume that because you want it to be true, not because anything your parent poster said indicated it. Disagreement with you does not imply brainwashing by some third-party boogeyman.

No, I agree - I am fine with people disagreeing with my position, but this ground is well trodden, and the points the original commenter raised were classic Fox News/right wing/anti-socialised care talking points - the ones with the vested interest to spread disinformation.

Put it this way, those erroneous assumptions are not coming from research or personal experience, although I will concede that he may have heard them second hand and didn't question the veracity. His statements are not backed by evidence, however, which is why I disagreed with him.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38374362)

Yes, I get to go see my doctor without waiting 6 months.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38378208)

So do I, and I have a choice of doctors.

Don't believe everything Fox News tells you.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38384920)

How about this response than:

At least I will be able to get the implant in a timely manner as they won't classify it as elective surgery and make you wait 6 months to receive it.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38386344)

So will I.

Again, don't believe everything you hear from Fox News.

Universal Healthcare works very well - a fact that the vested interests that have a financial stake in keeping the US system the way it is have taken great pains to hide.

Re:I'm sorry, Sir. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372102)

Of course if you jack off with your eyes closed it will show anything *except* a Victoria's Secret ad. Probably some shit about five-dollar footlongs or applying directly to the forehead.

Augmentation (4, Funny)

blackicye (760472) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369422)

How much for the model with the Heads Up Display?

Re:Augmentation (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369492)

My short and crude analysis of the disease and the treatment indicates this would appear to be a heads up display, essentially overwriting whatever visual signal you have left, if any. I would imagine a high res version would look an awful lot like those "augmented reality" ideas, a perfect video image of a tree overwrites a dark and blurry smudge of a tree.

Other than the inevitable cataract problems, bionic retinas would seem to be the idea solar powered bionic implant... you've got plenty of light both by design and culturally (like, bionic female chest implants don't get as much sunlight as I feel they require for proper operation) and when bionic retinas are in the dark, they doesn't need to work anyway. No huge power requirements. Unfortunately someone has probably patented this trivial idea already so we'll be stuck with implanted AAA cells in the nostrils for a couple decades, but someday the patent will expire and get out of the way of progress.

Re:Augmentation (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370970)

Other than the inevitable cataract problems

Cataracts are no longer a problem, there are have been implants for cataracts since 1949 (developed in the UK). The surgery is fairly quick and entirely painless, although it does kind of freak you out when they stick a needle in your eye. However, you're getting a needle in the eye for the retina implant, too.

You guys still want that HUD? Even though it means getting a needle stck in your eye, maybe more than once like I have?

Cataract surgery is a piece of cake. A Vitrectomy is pure hell, [slashdot.org] and I would imagine that a retinal implant would involve a vitrectomy. [wikipedia.org] BTW, the photos in that second link are not for the squeamish.

Re:Augmentation (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38384952)

I can't wait for the HUD contacts. I would be willing to put in a contact that communicated wirelessly with a computer/phone.

Re:Augmentation (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396914)

That would be cool, but I'll wager you'll see HUD glasses long before you see HUD contacts.

Re:Augmentation (1)

tobiasly (524456) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369988)

How much for the model with the Heads Up Display?

This is modded Funny but let's be honest with ourselves here: 95% of us thought the exact same thing when we saw "retina implant" in the headline and then were bummed to learn it's just some stupid medical procedure for blind people.

Re:Augmentation (4, Funny)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370086)

95% of the people on Slashdot would be trying to run Linux on their retinal implant.

Re:Augmentation (1)

wintercolby (1117427) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370180)

At last! Forget the year of the Linux Desktop, this will be the year of the Linux Retinal Implant!

Re:Augmentation (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370764)

And they can! Linux runs fine on them. We don't have a framebuffer yet, so you just plug your terminal into this little connector we've attached along one edge.

Re:Augmentation (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372156)

No, sorry, it's not going in me if it isn't running Linux already.

Re:Augmentation (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38373682)

At last I, too, can dream of electric sheep [electricsheep.org] !

Re:Augmentation (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38384972)

Since it is an embedded application, it probably already is running Linux ;)

Macular degeneration? (4, Insightful)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369446)

Anyone know if this would be effective for macular degeneration? This, more than anything else, led to my grandmother's decline in her final years (IMO). Even as her body grew frail and her hearing went bad, her mind stayed sharp because she loved to read, work crosswords, play cards, etc.. But once her sight failed, she was basically locked in her own little world. She only lasted a few more years after that.

Re:Macular degeneration? (3, Insightful)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369608)

I'm not sure these implants, at least at first, would even let people read.

I think cochlear implants, which can let the deaf "hear", only have something like 16 channels, maximum, that is, 16 frequencies that they respond to.

It's better than being deaf, but if retinal implants are similar in their capability, I don't know if someone could read with them.

--PM

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369714)

Cochlear implants can't match the capabilities of a normal, undamaged ear - but they are good enough to make out speech. Mostly.

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369770)

Well, to read most books you only really technically need to be able to make out two shades, so that's not a big problem as long as the lighting conditions are relatively uniform. Kindles also only have 16 shades of grey and they look pretty damn good.

Re:Macular degeneration? (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369900)

I suspect that the big limitation would be the resolution of the electrode array. My, admittedly layman's, understanding is that you basically need an electrode for every 'pixel'(and that's the relatively simple case where you are just brute forcing it, not doing really subtle stuff like trying to map color inputs to the nerves that used to take input from the now defunct cones, and greyscale luma values to those formerly served by rods, and such).

Fabricating really teeny structures is quite mature in silicon MEMS processes; but I don't know whether the same is true in biocompatible, possibly flexible, stuff you can safely implant into somebody's retina without just getting a bunch of scar tissue...

Given people's tolerance for black and white movies and crap TV reception, remarkably few shades of grey and some lousy, smeary, color are impressively useful for working out what is going on; but only having a 16x16 matrix of that to work with might be a problem... It would be interesting to know exactly how many electrodes you'd need to have in place and functioning to provide various levels of vision reproduction.

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370348)

My recollection is that the best designs currently have a few thousand electrodes, and that resolution roughly corresponds to the big E on the eye chart. As you say, it's brute force. For each spatial location, the retina is covered by at least 20 types of ganglion cells (which are getting zapped), each of which send a different signal to the central brain. Each electrode might zap a few cells sensitive to motion in different directions, a few with different color opponency, contrast sensitivity, etc. Beats the hell out of blindness though.

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

jperl (1453911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38371162)

According to this study [royalsocie...ishing.org] , reading requires approximately a field of 3 by 5 degrees. With the retinal implant used (38x40 pixels) a field of view of 11 x 11 degrees was restored.
I do not think that the number of electrodes is the limiting factor. I guess the size of the electrodes and therefore the resolution achieved is really important. Another thing is that the contrast has to be sufficient to be able to detect things.

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369864)

(if you're talking in terms of resolution of course, it would make things difficult unless you could make out a certain DPI level..)

Re:Macular degeneration? (2)

walkerp1 (523460) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369970)

I think cochlear implants, which can let the deaf "hear", only have something like 16 channels, maximum, that is, 16 frequencies that they respond to.

It's better than being deaf

I always wondered what this would sound like. Wonder no more: Cochlear Implant Trial [youtube.com]

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

imgumbydamnit (730663) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370018)

Unfortunately, I don't think this particular implant would help. With Macular Degeneration, the retinal damage is not limited to photoreceptors. Depending on if she has the 'wet' or the 'dry' form of MD , there are some treatment options.

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38371148)

Thanks for the info. Unfortunately it's too late for my grandma, but she made it to 102, so I'm not complaining. I just always thought she could have lived longer if she'd kept her sight. Frankly, by the time the MD started, I doubt she would have accepted such treatment anyway. At 99, she was already "satisfied" with life, and "ready" to move on.

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

imgumbydamnit (730663) | more than 2 years ago | (#38371574)

My condolences. My grandmother passed away at 102 as well, this past February. She too said that she was ready to move on.

Re:Macular degeneration? (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372244)

Well that's a coincidence. My grandma also passed in the month of February, back in 2008. Best wishes to them both.

If you are too lazy to read, watch the videos (5, Informative)

jperl (1453911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38369734)

I lately had to present a paper [royalsocie...ishing.org] dealing with these retina implants from Germany. It is quite amazing what can be done.
To have a quick view on what was possible there are some videos as additional material: Videos [uni-tuebingen.de]

Isn't 'Retina' an Apple Trademark? (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38370800)

When do the attorneys arrive?

Re:Isn't 'Retina' an Apple Trademark? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372404)

They're gonna be really pissed when they mishear retina eye implant as Retina iImplant.

Mr. Laforge meet me in transpoter room 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38370844)

Kunta Kinte!

New Markets! (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372846)

Carrier IQ is all over this already, no doubt.

As someone with RP... (1)

frank_carmody (1551463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38374668)

As someone with RP I welcome this news. As someone that keeps tabs on treatment developments, I imagine that these implants are '10 years away' from being available to me.

LASERS for crowd control? (1)

gaspar ilom (859751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38374998)

This is great news for people who want to use lasers for crowd control [slashdot.org] .

Wow, not even the 24th century (1)

Maritz (1829006) | more than 2 years ago | (#38430420)

But we can already do better than sticking a Honda air filter [wikipedia.org] on people's faces - sweet ;)
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