"The retinal implant exemplifies how NSF grants for high-risk, fundamental research can directly result in ground-breaking technologies decades later," said Acting NSF Assistant Director for Engineering Kesh Narayanan. "In collaboration with the Second Sight team and the courageous patients who volunteered to have experimental surgery to implant the first-generation devices, the researchers of NSF's Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems Engineering Research Center are developing technologies that may ultimately have as profound an impact on blindness as the cochlear implant has had for hearing loss."
Although some treatments to slow the progression of degenerative diseases of the retina are available, no treatment has existed that could replace the function of lost photoreceptors in the eye.
The researchers began their retinal prosthesis research in the late 1980s to address that need, and in 1994 Humayun received his first NSF grant, an NSF Young Investigator Award, which built upon additional support from the Whittaker Foundation. Humayun used the funding to develop the first conceptualization of the Argus II's underlying artificial retina technology.
Since that time, he and his collaborators--including Wentai Liu of the University of California, Los Angeles and fellow USC researchers Jim Weiland and Eugene de Juan, Jr.--received six additional NSF grants, totaling $40 million, some of which was part of NSF's funding for BMES, launched in 2003. BMES drives research into a range of sophisticated prosthetic technologies to treat blindness, paralysis and other conditions.
"We were encouraged by the team's exploratory work in the 1980s and 1990s, supported by NSF and others, which re
|Contact: Joshua A. Chamot|
National Science Foundation