As a young adult, Roger Pontz’s eyesight began to deteriorate. Doctors told him that they could do nothing to save his eyes and that by the age of 40, he will be completely blind. Roger was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa , a genetic eye disease that damages the retina. People in Roger’s position would usually lose hope and try to make the best of their vision as they can.
But Pontz isn’t that kind of person. He never gave up, always believing that one day he would be able to see clearly again.
A few years ago, Pontz came across a device called Argus II, a “bionic eye”. The Argus II system consists of a pair of glasses with a small video camera attached to it. The camera captures images and send them to a prosthesis no larger than a pencil eraser that is implanted on the surface of the retina. Information from the camera is then wirelessly transmitted to electrodes on the artificial retina. Electrical pulses stimulate any remaining undamaged cells and create a perception of light in the brain.
This is an image of the prosthesis that is surgically implanted on the retina.
When Pontz got word of this device, he was eager to participate in it. The Argus II had been used in Europe since 2011, but hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On January 22, 2014, Pontz however was given the chance to take the experimental implant. Surprising to the doctors, Pontz recovery period after the surgery was incredibly fast and the effects of the surgery were almost instantaneous.
But this is far from perfect. Pontz can’t see specific images but rather simple flashes of light. However, Pontz feels that it is a step forward for him. He can see his family, make out whether his wife is wearing dark clothes or white clothes, and move around everyday objects.
We have a long way to go from curing blindness, but advances are promising. Who knows what the future will hold. To put it in Pontz’s words “you got to believe”.