In elementary school we were all taught the scientific method. The part many of us disliked the most came after testing and analyzing the results of an experiment only to find out our hypothesis was wrong and we had to do the testing all over again. But when the scientific method is used in real world research, finding out what works and what doesn’t can result in unbelievable outcomes.
After more than 20 years of testing, research and development by the University of Southern California, Doheny Eye Institute and Second Sight Medical Products Inc., the FDA recently approved an artificial retina that can restore some sight for a specific type of blindness. There are TI parts in the final commercial product, named Argus II, and TI helped the USC team, now part of the new USC Eye Institute, by constantly evaluating their hypotheses and ultimately determining what technology worked for their project. TI principle fellow Gene Frantz, who recently retired from TI and is now a professor in the practice of signal processing at Rice University, was deeply engaged with the USC project over the past decade.
“The assistance TI provided us was invaluable. It was used to explore some ideas related to packaging high-density and high-power components in implants. TI also helped us with some extremely compact, ultra-miniature cameras and imaging systems which will be useful in the next generation of retinal prosthesis,” said James Weiland, professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering at the USC Eye Institute. “Finally, TI assisted in some wireless research including wireless power.”
More than 50 people around the world have received the implanted device. All of the recipients suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, a condition where part of the retina that is sensitive to light has degenerated or is diseased.
“The surgical procedure is done on an outpatient basis and is now being performed not only in the U.S. but also in Europe after CE (Conformité Européenne) marking approval,” said Mark Humayun, professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering at the USC Eye Institute.
“The implantable microelectronic system electrically stimulates the part of the retina that is spared from disease to create the perception of light as if the photo sensitive part of the retina was still healthy and seeing light,” said Weiland. “When you step back and think about it, after two decades of work and how far we’ve come, it is pretty remarkable and rewarding.”
It has also been a rewarding experience for TI, which places a focus on creating new technologies that make our world safer and healthier.
“TI strives to innovate and be a part of cutting-edge research projects and ideas. Those ideas could one day be the driving force behind future TI products,” said Xiaochen Xu, a TI HealthTech Systems Engineer. “It is a really exciting project for TI. TI’s goal is not only to support university research with short term research projects, but take part in long term projects like this one.”
At the heart of most TI employees is a young scientist or engineer working through the scientific method. So it is no surprise that TI loves to be a part of a ground-breaking project when the end result is creating revolutionary technology like giving sight to the blind.