Success for Retina Implant – retinal implant still functioning after more than 50 months
(Reutlingen) – The subretinal implant from Retina Implant AG has successfully demonstrated its long service life under real-life conditions. Implanted back in 2014, the chip is still functional and has enabled a previously completely blind RP patient, now in her 70s, to perceive light. The fact that the implant has thus exceeded a service life of over 50 months is a great technological success for the Reutlingen-based medtech company.
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a degenerative retinal disease that leads to the destruction of the retina and often total blindness in the final stage. It is regarded as a „rare disease“, yet affects 20,000 to 30,000 people in Germany alone and around three million individuals worldwide. Retina Implant AG from Reutlingen has developed a subretinal implant that is able to restore partial sight to people who perceive very little or no light due to various forms of degenerative retinal diseases such as RP.
In Tübingen, an RP patient who had already lost all her sight received the implant in 2014. The chip implanted in the patient, now in her 70s, has been in operation for more than four years – and still functions as it did in the beginning. For instance, the patient can identify light sources and therefore find her way around more easily. „One of the greatest challenges when developing the implant was ensuring the camera chip in the eye would remain functional over many years,“ explains Dr. Alfred Stett, CTO of Retina Implant AG. „Unlike pacemakers and neurostimulators, which have their electronics and battery packaged in a fixed, hermetically sealed casing, our electronic chip is in direct contact with the retina – a light-permeable barrier layer that is a few micrometres thick is the only form of protection.“
The subretinal implant features 1,600 photodiodes and stimulation contacts that partially replace photoreceptors destroyed by RP. The chip is only around 12 square millimetres in size and is placed directly below the fovea centralis, which means it can move with the eye to locate objects. The latest generation of the implant, known as the RETINA IMPLANT Alpha AMS, was awarded CE certification back in 2016. In Germany, the cost of the implant is reimbursed by the statutory health insurance providers.
„Our forecasts regarding shelf life were previously based on ageing tests conducted in the laboratory and on model-based estimates of service life that are commonplace in the aviation industry, for example. These tests and estimates predicted a service life of 4.7 years. Our patient’s experience shows that we are on the right path. This success is the result of 15 years of intensive research and development to give blind people fresh hope,“ says Dr. Stett.
25 August 2018 Patient information day for congenital retinal diseases at Knappschaftsklinikum Saar GmbH, An der Klinik 10, 66280, Sulzbach, Germany, Augenklinik Sulzbach (Sulzbach Eye Hospital).
About Retina Implant AG
Retina Implant AG researches and develops innovative treatments and high-tech products for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The subretinal RETINA IMPLANT Alpha AMS can help blind patients regain a certain degree of useful sight. The CE-approved microchip is implanted beneath the retina (subretinally) at specialist RI implantation centres.
Transcorneal electrical stimulation (TES treatment) with the RI OkuStim® system offers RP patients with sufficient residual vision the opportunity to slow down the progression of the disease.
The company, based in Reutlingen, employs around 45 people and is managed by Reinhard Rubow (CEO and speaker of the Management Board), Jürgen Klein (Member of the Board, Sales & Marketing) and Dr. Alfred Stett (CTO, Member of the Board).