Advanced artificial retina to undergo clinical trials
3 October 2005
Zug, Switzerland. Intelligent Medical Implants (IMI) has completed the
development of and is to begin clinical trials of its 50-electrode Learning
Retinal Implant (TM) system, which it claims is the most sophisticated
artificial vision device implanted in humans.
Previously, the most complex retinal implant tested in humans was a
16-electrode array developed by one of IMI's American competitors.
"We are clearly the global frontrunner for learning retinal implants, which
we expect will make it possible for persons who have been blinded by retinal
degenerative diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa, to restore some of
their lost sight," said Stephan Rietiker, Executive Board Member and CEO,
Intelligent Medical Implants.
Intelligent Medical Implants AG (IMI), a neuro-prosthetics device
company, announced that it has completed development of its first-generation
Learning Retinal Implant System, containing a 50-electrode device, and will
commence a clinical study of this device in the fourth quarter of this year
at the University of Hamburg (Germany) Medical School under principal
investigator Dr. Gisbert Richard, Professor of Ophthalmology. IMI also
expects to announce preliminary results of this groundbreaking clinical
study in the fourth quarter of this year.
In a previous multi-site European clinical study performed with a
single-IMI-electrode protocol, independent researchers reported that 19 of
20 totally blind persons (95%) were able to see a small point of light.
"These blind persons had no visual perception whatsoever, yet nearly all of
them were able to 'see' with the stimulation of our single electrode," said
Stephan Rietiker, M.D., Executive Board Member and CEO of Intelligent
"Given that the retinal implants of other groups are based on cochlear
implant technology — a totally different approach that increases the risk of
complications — and given that our first-generation implant is already more
than three times more powerful than the competition's, we are confident that
IMI is now the runaway leader in the race to develop the world's first
commercially available artificial vision implant," added Dr. Rietiker.
"Our initial target market is blind persons with RP, one of the two most
common causes of vision loss in persons over the age of 50 by hereditary
degenerative retinal diseases. RP is considered irreversible and no
treatment or cure is known to date. Several million people are affected
worldwide," added Dr. Rietiker. "We expect our Learning Retinal Implant
System(TM) will allow these patients to 'see' objects by identifying their
size, their position and their movements and shapes. In short, a previously
blind person, using our retinal implant, is expected to be able to move
independently in an unknown environment without the need for a guide dog or
cane. Certainly, development of a wireless visual prosthesis that can be
implanted permanently with good results would represent a gigantic leap
forward for the field of artificial vision."
About the Learning Retinal Implant System
IMI's Learning Retinal Implant System replaces the signal-processing
functions of a healthy retina and provides input to the retinal nerve cells
(the ganglion cells) that, in turn, provide input to the optic nerve and the
brain. The System comprises three main components:
- An implant, "The Retinal Stimulator", which is surgically placed into
the eye of a patient, who:
- wears a pair of spectacles containing an integrated mini-camera and
transmitter components for wireless signal and energy transmission ("The
Visual Interface"). Via a cable, the spectacles are connected to:
- "The Pocket Processor" worn at the patient's waist. This device
replaces the information processing function of the formally healthy
retina. The use of a high-speed digital signal processor allows the
provision of "intelligent information" to the implant (and the nerve
cells) by using tuneable software to approximate the information
processing normally carried out by the healthy retina.
The entire process enables patients to optimize their visual perception
during the learning phase. Indeed, using the patient's feedback on
perception as an input for the tuning of The Pocket Processor is the unique,
patent-protected feature of the System and constitutes the 'learning'
capability of the Learning Retinal Implant System.
For more information see: