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Prosthetics and 'Wearables' Research News

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LambdaVision, a biotech company that is developing a treatment to help patients regain sight, will launch their artificial retina technology with engineering partner Space Tango on Northrop Grumman’s 14th Commercial Resupply Services Mission for NASA (NG-14) to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. Scheduled to launch on September 30th at 10:26 p.m. ET, NG-14 is the first of a series of NASA flights to the ISS in low-Earth orbit (LEO) focused on developing the on-orbit production of LambdaVision’s artificial retina. LambdaVision’s research on the ISS focuses on exploring the benefits of microgravity for producing its artificial retina, and expands on research being conducted on Earth and previous efforts on the ISS. Initial studies will evaluate the effects of microgravity on protein function and stability, which is critical for the quality and performance of the artificial retina. Outcomes of this experiment will provide a foundation for future ISS-based trials. Over the next three years, the LambdaVision-Space Tango partnership will serve to evaluate and improve on-orbit production processes, and to produce artificial retinas that will then be evaluated on Earth.

What this means for Usher syndrome: Artificial retinas are intended for individuals who have lost their vision due to degenerated photoreceptor cells, but still possess functional or intact retinal nerve cells and optic nerves. If LambdaVision's unique approach to on-orbit production successfully delivers high quality and high performing artificial retinas, Usher patients may one day be able to regain some of their sight.

Scientists from Australia's Monash University, who spent more than a decade developing a bionic vision system where signals from a wireless brain implant are transmitted to a camera mounted on a special pair of glasses, are gearing up for human clinical trials. The Gennaris bionic vision system is a unique solution that completely bypasses the eye, and do not require wires to protrude through the scalp. A small microchip is implanted on the surface of the brain and can generate 172 different bright spots called phospenes, in order to provide visual cues to the user about what is in front of them. This innovative technology within the Gennaris system has been previously tested on sheep, yielding very positive results and no noticeable side effects after more than 2700 hours of visual stimulation. While the Gennaris system is designed specifically to restore vision, the technology has potential for other applications, such as overcoming paralysis by bypassing injured nerves and connecting affected limbs directly to the brain.

What this means for Usher Syndrome: The Gennaris system is intended to restore limited vision to the blind, regardless of the cause. Therefore, if proven successful, this bionic vision system will be an option for Usher patients in addition to those with retinitis pigmentosa and other visual impairments.

Scientists at the Italian Institute of Technology have created the first-ever artificial retina to be made only from organic materials: a substrate derived from a soy protein, a conductive polymer, and a semiconductor. The retina is designed to work like a solar panel, “converting light into electrical signal, which is transmitted to the retina’s neurons.” Because these artificial retinas are made from organic materials, they should be more compatible and reduce the risk of being rejected by the body after the operation.

What this means for Usher syndrome: This work may one day lead to retinal implants to treat vision loss in Usher patients.

Mojo, a startup company, has recently developed a contact lens that can be used like a smartphone. The goal is to develop lenses that show you a menu and options when you want them and hide them when you don’t. These lens would not only be functional with smart options, but could also be fitted with a patients prescription. The goal of these lenses is to provide assistance in mobility and reading for those with poor vision. The clinic trials of these lenses will take place in Palo Alta at the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired and will be focus on patients who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.

What this means for Usher syndrome: These devices may be able to assist patients with Usher syndrome.

Retinitis Pigmentosa targets the rod and cone photoreceptor cells, but the disease does minimal damage to the retina’s many other neurons, which “process signals from the rods and cones and convey the results to the optic nerve.” One way to restore vision is to replace the damaged photoreceptors with a device that generates electrical pulses in response to light. Through the various points on the device, pulses can communicate with the retina’s surviving neurons in a natural way. Lanzani and colleagues at IIT are investigating a new kind of retinal prosthesis made from semi-conductive polymers, a class of carbon-based plastics that can conduct electricity in the same way that silicon microchips do.

What this means for Usher syndrome: Researchers are developing new types of prosthetics that will replace damaged photoreceptors and potentially restore vision for those with RP.

In a new study of patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa, the Keck School of Medicine of USC researchers have found that adapted augmented reality (AR) glasses can improve patients’ mobility by 50% and grasp performance by 70%. Utilizing a different approach by employing assistive technology to enhance natural senses, the team adapted AR glasses that project bright colors onto patients’ retinas, corresponding to nearby obstacles.

What this means for Usher syndrome: we can improve the quality of life for patients with low vision due to retinitis pigmentosa through the use of augmented reality technology.

Scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and Scuola Superiore Sant’ Anna in Italy are developing a technology, OpticSELINE, for the blind that stimulates the optic nerve. The idea is to produce phosphenes, the sensation of seeing light in the form of seeing white patterns, without seeing light directly. Unfortunately, only a few hundred patients qualify for the current retinal implants on the market for clinical reasons. The intraneural electrode is a potential solution to this exclusion, since the optic nerve and the pathway to the brain are often intact. Intraneural electrodes contain an array of 12 electrodes and are more stable and less likely to move around once they are implanted. To understand the effectiveness of the electrodes, scientists delivered electric current to the optic nerve through OpticSELINE and measured the brain’s activity . The stimulation showed each electrode induces a special pattern of cortical activation, suggesting that intraneural stimulation of the optic nerve is selective and informative.

What this means for Usher syndrome: newer technologies such as the OpticSELINE are being developed as potential solutions to help the blind see. It might take some time and several clinical trials to fine-tune those stimulated cortical patterns but as they are now those visual signals generated by the OpticSELINE will be able to provide visual aid in the near future.

Scientists from Okayama University have developed a film coupled with photoelectric dye that generates electric signals in response to light. When the device was placed on an instrument that measures electric potential, the film generated waves of electric signals after being exposed to a flashing light. Researchers have highlighted that the device may function as a “novel type of retinal prosthesis.”

What this means for Usher syndrome: This device might be developed into an implant treatment for vision loss in Usher syndrome.

When a person becomes blind their brain’s visual cortex is typically undamaged, but it is not receiving information from the eyes. Six blind people have now had their vision partially restored thanks to Orion, a new device that feeds images from a camera directly into the brain. The Orion device has two main parts: a brain implant and a pair of glasses. The implant consists of sixty electrodes that receive information from a camera mounted on the glasses. Together, they deliver visual information to the brain; thus, bypassing the eye.

What this means for Usher syndrome: This system might provide vision in Usher syndrome patients who are completely blind.

2Ctech Inc, a privately-held development stage company focused on the application of nanoparticle technologies for the treatment of retinal diseases, announced its first-known clinical program to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of Quantum Dots (QDs) to achieve photovoltaic stimulation of the neural retina for preservation or enhancement of vision in patients with retinal degenerative diseases. QDs are semiconductor crystalline structures that absorb light and generate a dipole electrical field; thus, stimulating the neuronal retina cells. These particles are similar to solar cells, which produce energy in response to light. In the layers of the retina, the particle emissions are intended to result in direct stimulation of the neural retina, “creating action potentials that trigger the normal neural pathways to the brain.

What this means for Usher syndrome: This new technology holds promise to provide a means to restore lost vision in Usher syndrome patients.

In this study, we proposed a new method for evaluating the results based on the sizes of the phosphenes that the patient drew. Additionally, we described the methodology of psychological testing and support for a deaf-blind patient. The patient with the retinal prosthesis, Argus II, felt more independent, confident, and healthier.

What this means for Usher syndrome: The results of this study provide a better understanding of retinal implants for patients with vision loss.

In August, it will be a year since the first commercial IRIS®II retinal chip implantation in Europe took place; it has allowed a blind patient to perceive light stimuli and use it to locate objects, meaning that she can be more independent. This work has made it possible to integrate artificial vision technology, which includes an electrical retinal stimulator with over 150 electrodes, glasses with a bio-inspired mini-camera and a pocket processor into this patient’s day-to-day life. For the patient, blind from a result of retinitis pigmentosa, the retinal chip is another way of supporting her in her daily life, together with her guide dog and the use of a cane.

What this means for Usher syndrome: There are possible technologies available to help the blind live and navigate independently.

David Rand, Marie Jakešová, Gur Lubin, Ieva Vėbraitė, Moshe David-Pur, Vedran Đerek, Tobias Cramer, Niyazi Serdar Sariciftci, Yael Hanein, Eric Daniel Głowacki

A simple retinal prosthesis is being developed in collaboration between Tel Aviv University in Israel and Linköping University in Sweden. Fabricated using cheap and widely-available organic pigments used in printing inks and cosmetics, it consists of tiny pixels like a digital camera sensor on a nanometric scale. Researchers hope that it can restore sight to blind people.

An Ottawa-based company, iBionics, is working to improve the effectiveness of vision-restoring technology by developing a bionic retina, the Diamond Eye implant. iBionics is targeting for full approval and commercial availability by 2024.

One of these recent discoveries doesn't replace an entire eye, but supplants a major component of vision. It holds some promise for millions of people who could otherwise go blind. In a first, scientists in China have created artificial photoreceptors to help blind mice see.

A retinal implant allowed a 69 year old woman with macular degeneration to see more than double the usual number of letters on the vision chart. Luxturna, the gene therapy was approved by the FDA in 2017, corrects a mutation found in Leber congential amaurosis (LCA).

Three blind mice could be a thing of the past. Scientists have restored the sight of blind mice by implanting tiny gold prosthetic photoreceptors into their eyes. So far, this incredible technique has only been carried out on mice. However, the work holds some hope for people with degenerative eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration.

Pixium Vision, a company developing innovative bionic vision systems to enable patients who have lost their sight to lead more independent lives, announces today the world’s first successful human implantation and activation of PRIMA, its new generation miniaturized wireless photovoltaic sub-retinal implant, in a patient with severe vision loss from atrophic dry Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June, Cochlear’s Nucleus 7 Sound Processor can now stream sound directly from a compatible iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to the sound processor.

Scientists have developed a retinal implant that can restore lost vision in rats and are planning to trial the procedure in humans later this year. The implant made from a thin layer of conductive polymer, placed on a silk-based substrate and covered with semiconducting polymer, is being developed into a prosthetic that serves as a working replacement for a damaged retina. Based on results from initial studies, the team has concluded that the implant directly activates “residual neuronal circuitries in the degenerate retina.” Although there are no guarantees that results obtained in rats will translate to humans, the team is hopeful that they will.

What this means for Usher syndrome: This is another example of a prosthetic that could potentially replace damaged photoreceptors and potentially restore vision for those with RP.

Scientists have developed a retinal implant that can restore lost vision in rats, and are planning to trial the procedure in humans later this year. The implant, which converts light into an electrical signal that stimulates retinal neurons, could give hope to millions who experience retinal degeneration – including retinitis pigmentosa – in which photoreceptor cells in the eye begin to break down, leading to blindness.

The prestigious Institute of Ocular Microsurgery in Barcelona implanted the first patient in Spain with IRIS® II, a bionic vision system equipped with a bio-inspired camera and a 150-electrode epi-retinal implant that is designed to be explantable.

Not just Star Trek fiction, a new visor from eSight is a lightweight, high-contrast vision system for legally blind people.

The artificial retina is the first device of its kind to move from the laboratory to the clinic, after a trial of 30 patients has shown that it can safely restore some vision to people who have lost their sight to a genetic disease.

This article describes and compares two retinal implants, one being developed in Israel to the one in clinical trials in the U.S. by Second Sight. While they are both implants, they are also very different. Users of the Israeli one would wear just a special pair of glasses, whereas the Second Sight one includes glasses, a camera, and a processor. In addition, surgery for the Israeli one takes much less time and is less invasive. The Israeli inventors also promise much better vision. It is expected to begin clinical trials in 2013.

Researchers have developed an implant that clears out the scar tissue of diseased retinas and seeds new ones. This quickly evolving procedure holds hope for millions of persons with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).

ScienceDaily — Researchers trying to restore vision damaged by disease have found promise in a tiny implant that sows seeds of new cells in the eye.

Less than a month ago, at the 2009 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), researchers from Stanford University presented their solution for a retinal implant that has the potential to restore vision in those who lose sight due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinitis pigmentosa (RP), and certain other retinal disorders. The implant is composed of solar cells embedded in a bed of flexible silicon electrodes that transfer visual images to the brain.

New York Times article outlining a number of experimental treatments being tested to help restore vision. An intensive three-year research project involving electrodes surgically implanted in the eye, a camera on the bridge of the nose and a video processor strapped to the waist is part of a burst of recent research.

Led by electrical engineering professor John Wyatt, team develops retinal implant that could help restore useful level of vision to certain groups of blind people. Inspired by the success of cochlear implants that can restore hearing to some deaf people, researchers at MIT are working on a retinal implant that could one day help blind people regain a useful level of vision.

Report on efforts of a team in Germany to develop an electronic retinal prosthesis.

Very little research-based information exists about the benefits and challenges of cochlear implants for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, who also have a vision impairment. A new study aims to remedy that. This multi-year project will address a number of objectives to begin to provide a research base for more informed decision-making by families and service providers, in relation to cochlear implants for children who are deaf-blind.