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July 7th, 2010
02:33 PM ET

FDA approves telescope device for eyes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week approved the first implantable miniature telescope for the eye, to treat macular degeneration.

The device helps patients with end-stage, age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe vision loss in Americans older than 60

After being placed into one eye, the device acts as a telescope by replacing the natural lens and magnifies and projects images onto a healthy portion of the retina, according to the FDA.  The non-implanted eye is used for peripheral vision. Read the announcement here

About 8 million people in the United States have macular degeneration, a condition that damages the center of the retina – called the macula - causing vision problems.

For more on macular degeneration.

The implantable miniature telescope is inserted in patients who are 75 years and older with severe to profound vision impairment.

In clinical trials, 90 percent of the 219 subjects gained some visual acuity.  But the treatment comes with risks, warned the FDA.  It is a large device that can lead to cell loss in the cornea.  The manufacturer, VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies Inc., has agreed to include a detailed explanation of the risks associated with its implantation.

The company must also follow up with the subjects for another two years and conduct a new study of 770 subjects to monitor adverse events for five years after implantation.


soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Jen

    I wonder why they specify that it is for patients with age related macular degeneration only. I have a friend in her 30's who has severe macular degeneration due to type 1 diabetes. I had such hope when I first opened the article. Maybe it's a hint of what's to come... one can hope...

    July 7, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • evoc

      It is a test run used on people they decide are close to death anyway, and who will not suffer from further damage to their existing loss of vision.

      July 7, 2010 at 23:56 | Report abuse |
    • Genetico

      I work on ARMD. The damaged area of the ARMD patient is much, much smaller than people with diabetic retinopathy. Also, ARMD is NOT an end-stage condition. People can live for decades after vision loss thru' this condition.

      July 8, 2010 at 03:52 | Report abuse |
    • Genetico

      To add...hence, ARMD is easier to treat, and Diabetic retinopathy is much more complicated.

      July 8, 2010 at 03:54 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      Unfortunately Jen, ARMD and diabetic retinopathy are two different beasts. Macular degeneration affects such a small area, and usually there is healthy tissue surrounding the damaged area that can be used in this case to help with magnification. Diabetic retinopathy usually damages the entire retina, leaving little to no healthy tissue to work with. Chances are your friend has had extensive laser surgery of the retina, which unfortunately damages tissue as well, but not to the extent that the diabetes does. I hope that one day your friend and many many others will be able to benefit from new research breakthroughs such as stem cells and possibly even retinal transplants.

      July 8, 2010 at 09:13 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      How about doing somthing for kids affected by the juvenile form called Stargardts. I have a 13 year old son that was diagnosed at the age of 10, who has had to give up everything he loves!!
      Why aren't we doing more to help those that have their whole lives ahead of them!

      August 3, 2010 at 11:16 | Report abuse |
  2. Jim Peak

    *********** BAD LINK ABOVE- corrected below ***********
    Link to FDA announcement above is bad (notifying CNN now) Correct is:
    http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm218066.htm
    ******************************************************************

    July 7, 2010 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • giz

      just because I have a weird sense of humor and work in the optical industry, look up Night Gallery, and eye transplant, it's an interesting episode

      July 8, 2010 at 06:18 | Report abuse |
  3. Brigitte

    Why aren't there any eye transplants? It seem just about every other organ or limb can be restored by transplant.

    July 7, 2010 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Scott

      Cornea transplants are the most common transplants (and mos successful) performed.

      July 7, 2010 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      Because drs cannot reattach the optic nerve. Seems that currently stem cell research is the way to go.

      July 7, 2010 at 23:21 | Report abuse |
    • guest

      Not yet.....you have to sever the optic nerve to remove the eyeball. Once the optic nerve is damaged you cant regain vision....optic nerve connects the eyeball to the brain

      July 7, 2010 at 23:21 | Report abuse |
    • RJ MD

      The eye is way to complex to transplant. Each eye has about 1,000,000 nerve fibers and you cannot reattach those. With other organs, you simply just re connect the blood vessels to make them work.

      July 7, 2010 at 23:22 | Report abuse |
    • Denim

      Oh, they can. Ever heard of a glass eye? You can't see with it, but it counts as a prosthetic.

      July 8, 2010 at 00:31 | Report abuse |
    • Patty

      I would like to know the same thing. I have two blind friends and they have artificial eyes, but do you think someday, or are they working on now to have eyes so the blind would be able to see??

      July 8, 2010 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
  4. Karen

    can this be used for persons who has phthisis in the eye? (dead eye)

    July 7, 2010 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Steve

    Brigitte, the retina is actually part of the brain. We are not even close to transplanting the entire eye because the neurons that are in the retina would somehow have to connect to other parts of the brain. This would be similar to repairing a severed spinal cord.

    July 7, 2010 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. pam

    i wonder if in the near future, eye implants will be used as a remedy for advanced glaucoma.. or at least something other than teminal eye death

    July 8, 2010 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Genetico

    As an indireclty NIH-funded researcher, it is great to see such breakthroughs and the interest they generate. There are dozens of very intelligent people working on glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and other severely blinding diseases. None of this would be done without decades of government-funded research. Please remember to support the National Eye Institute (NEI) branch of the NIH. Thx.

    July 8, 2010 at 04:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dr Bill Toth

    Super exciting development!

    July 8, 2010 at 06:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. AMP

    I would like to request an honest advise for Lipoma. I have many all over my body and used Mopical herbal which did not work.

    July 8, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Eddie

    Thought Tony might be interested in ths.

    July 8, 2010 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. HuhWhatHuh?!?!?

    Cool! Bionic eyes! I want an x-ray set!

    July 8, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Heather Brooks

    I'm a 33 year old female with Stargard's. How do I get more info on this new development and see about getting in line for one!

    July 9, 2010 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Liz

      I have a 13 year old son that was diagnosed at the age of 10 with stargardts. Why aren't any of these trials being done for the young kids???

      August 3, 2010 at 11:19 | Report abuse |
  13. C.T. Bowles

    How can I get more information on this? My 90 yr. old Mother has severe Macular Degenration (wet) and has had 32 shots in each of her eyes. Maybe this could help her. Who can I contact? Thank you.

    July 9, 2010 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. am

    I wish you all a better world through the research our great and dedicated scientists conduct. Thank goodness Bush is gone who set us back a decade in progress.

    July 10, 2010 at 07:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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