Article details miniature glass telescope for patients with severe AMD

The New York Times (7/19, BU4, Eisenberg) reported that a miniature “glass telescope, the size of a pea, has been successfully implanted in the eyes of people with severely damaged retinas, helping them to read, watch television, and better see familiar faces.” The device is intended for “people with an irreversible, advanced form of “age-related macular degeneration (AMD)” in which a blind spot develops in the central vision of both eyes.” During a short “outpatient procedure,” the “mini-telescope” is implanted “in one eye in place of its natural lens.” The device “magnifies images on the retina, extending them so they fall on healthy cells outside the damaged macula, said Allen W. Hill, chief executive of VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies in Saratoga, CA, the implant’s maker.” The “other eye, unaltered, is used for peripheral vision during other activities,” such as walking. In March 2009, “an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommended approval of the device. VisionCare says it expects the FDA” to approve the device “later this year.”

“After the operation, computer vision training is vital to train the eye and get the best possible outcome,” the UK’s Daily Mail (7/18, Grebot) reported. The UK’s “Macular Disease Society says” the new telescope “is not ‘a miracle cure,'” however. While it “has worked successfully for some,” it cannot yet “be regarded as a regular new treatment for widespread use in MD patients.” The device “was first made available in the UK about 18 months ago,” but “it isn’t currently available” for patients on the National Health Service.

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