January 16, 2020
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First US patient implanted with wireless retinal device

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A surgeon at the UPMC Eye Center has implanted the first patient in the United States with a wireless retinal device to restore partial sight to those with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

The Prima system (Pixium Vision), implanted as part of a clinical trial, is designed to restore sight in patients who are blind from advanced AMD. A 2 mm × 2 mm 30 µm thick miniaturized wireless photovoltaic chip is placed under the retina and works alongside augmented reality glasses that have a built-in camera and infrared projector. The chip acts as an artificial retina, and after implantation, patients undergo rehabilitation to train their brains to interpret signals from the implant along with their natural vision.

“This is an incredibly exciting first for us at UPMC, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” implanting surgeon Joseph Martel, MD, the principal investigator of the feasibility trial at UPMC, said in a press release. “I’m grateful to our patients who have volunteered to participate in this trial, without whom this would not be possible.”

The first-in-human trial of the system is underway in France. Five patients have been followed for more than a year, and 12-month results showed most patients were able to identify letter sequences, with no reports of device-related serious adverse effects.