The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a grant totaling $11.8 million over five years to Illinois Institute of Technology to test a groundbreaking intra-cortical visual prosthesis (ICVP) system.
Under the NIH funding, Illinois Tech is preparing for an early feasibility clinical trial for five human volunteers, who will have the system surgically implanted at the University of Chicago. The outcome of this clinical trial will be the evaluation of the first intra-cortical visual prosthesis using novel implantable wireless stimulator devices.
Philip R. Troyk, associate dean of Armour College of Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering at Illinois Tech, is the principal investigator of the project. Illinois Tech leads on the project, which has been developed with six partner institutions.
The number of Americans with vision loss is rising rapidly. There is currently no cure for blindness, and an artificial vision system may be the best alternative form of treatment. Since many individuals affected by total blindness do not have intact retinas or optic nerves, but retain the visual cortex, the areas of the brain that allow us to see, an intra-cortical visual prosthesis may be the only possible advanced visual sensory aid from which they could benefit.
The ICVP system uses a collection of wireless simulator modules that each contains 16 microelectrodes and associated electronics. These modules bypass the eyes and optic nerves and directly stimulate the visual cortex. Each electrode can be commanded to inject stimulus currents into the cortex over a fully wireless magnetic link to produce visual perception within the brain.
The current ICVP team was started at Illinois Tech in 2000 and has had $6 million in prior funding from the NIH, the United States Army, and private donors. The project is a collaboration between Troyk and Frank J. Lane, associate chair of the Department of Psychology and associate professor of psychology at Lewis College of Human Sciences, in addition to researchers from: University of Chicago; Johns Hopkins University; University of Texas at Dallas; Sigenics, Inc.; MicroProbes for Life Science, Inc.; and The Chicago Lighthouse.
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Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UG3NS095557. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.