By directly stimulating the brain’s visual system, the Orion I prosthesis has, in a world-first, let a patient perceive light.
The 30-year-old is the first patient to undergo the implantation of the device, which is being developed by visual prosthetics creator Second Sight.
The Orion I is in line to be a solution for patients who are unsuitable for Second Sight’s Argus II device, which captures light in a camera and stimulates the optic nerve based on this information using a retinal implant.
By bypassing the optic nerve and stimulating the visual cortex of the brain directly, the Orion system will be suitable for those suffering from blindness that includes optic nerve damage, the developer said.
The patient, who underwent the two-hour surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has been able to ‘see’ individual phosphenes or spots of light and colours when his visual cortex is stimulated by the device, with no significant adverse side effects, Second Sight explained.
The system is not yet connected to the camera, though, so the signals sent do not correspond to the real world.
However, Second Sight is planning to file a Food and Drug Administration application next year for a clinical trial of the system in its entirety, with the spectacles-mounted camera from the Argus II system, Second Sight board chairman, Robert Greenberg told OT.
He explained that the Orion I technology evolved from the Argus II research and development work.
“We actually just began this programme a couple of years ago. But, because of the 15-plus years of the development of the Argus II, we have been able to move very quickly,” he emphasised.
“I was present during the surgery and was very pleased at how smoothly it went…The real excitement was the first day we turned the system on and the patient saw spots of light and even colours as we had hoped,” he highlighted.
Mr Greenberg added: “The Orion I has the potential to restore useful vision to patients completely blinded due to virtually any reason, including glaucoma, cancer, diabetic retinopathy, or trauma. Today, these individuals have no available therapy.”
UCLA neurosurgeon, Dr Nader Pouratian, highlighted that: “Based on these results, stimulation of the visual cortex has the potential to restore useful vision to the blind, which is important for independence and improving quality of life.”