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Indications

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Retinal Degeneration

The global incidence of blindness due to retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, is increasing at a significant rate due to a rise in average lifespan and an expansion of the global geriatric population. Blindness from these diseases can cause a significant decline in the quality of life for affected patients. Both diseases are characterized by the loss of the photoreceptor cells (rod and cone cells). These cells are specialized neurons found in the retina that absorb light and transmit the impulse through the ganglion and bipolar cells, which is interpreted by the brain as vision. The photoreceptor cells in patients with these diseases become damaged and can no longer respond to light effectively. It is important to note that throughout the degradation of these photoreceptor cells, the bipolar and ganglion cells of the retina do remain largely intact, and it is this characteristic that is exploited by scientists developing retinal implants.

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Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) refers to a heterogeneous group of heritable retinal degenerative diseases characterized by a progressive loss of vision resulting from photoreceptor cell death. This currently incurable disease results from a diverse group of genetic mutations in more than 40 genes in the rod photoreceptor cells, which leads to a set of clinical characteristics that make it particularly difficult to treat. As a common pathology, patients affected by RP experience night blindness, followed by the gradual loss of peripheral vision leading to tunnel vision (see figure to the left), and finally to a loss of central, cone-mediated vision. RP affects 100,000 individuals in the United States and roughly 1.5 million people worldwide.

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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative retinal disease that is characterized by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, leading to a loss of central vision. In this case, degeneration typically follows retinal detachment, which is either caused by cell debris accumulation (dry AMD) or the formation of blood vessels (wet AMD) in the back of the eye. AMD has been cited as being the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and legal blindness in individuals over the age of 55 and affects over 30 million people worldwide.

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