Millions of people around the world suffer from retinal degenerative diseases at varying degrees of vision loss including complete blindness.
Retinal degenerative disease is a debilitating condition with a major impact on daily life. From performing basic functions to personal independence and mental health, vision loss affects a wide range of everyday tasks such as reading, watching TV, driving etc.
Common to all retinal degenerative diseases is the damage to photoreceptor cells of the retina, which malfunction and disappear. The photoreceptor cells are the light sensing cells of the retina, the delicate nerve layer that lines the back of the eye. Normally, the retina’s photoreceptor cells sense light (similar to the way a camera captures a picture), initiate a cascade of electrical impulses that are sent through the retina and the optic nerve to the brain and create an image. When the photoreceptor cells malfunction due to the degenerative disease, the image that is received is blurred, distorted or completely unseen. This is often a progressive disease in which the person will suffer a continuous decline in vision.
The most common retinal degenerative diseases are Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Given the magnitude and severity of the problem, it is not surprising that new treatment strategies are being investigated to solve the problem such as gene therapy, optogenetics and cell transplants. But currently the only strategy that is applicable to different types of retinal degenerations and to advanced stages of the disease is an artificial retina.
The product developed by Nano Retina can process visual images, simulate photoreceptor function by mimicking the inner retinal nerve cells, which in turn pass the signal through the optic nerve to the brain, thus restoring visual perception.
Within the family of “retinal degenerations” there are multiple known diseases which differ in their pathology, prognosis and visual symptoms. It is difficult to predict the extent of vision loss or how fast the disease might progress but in many cases people with retinal degenerative disease will eventually suffer complete vision loss.
Over 200 million people worldwide suffer from blindness or low vision1 due to a variety of diseases, including retinal degenerative disease. The two most prevalent retinal degenerative diseases are2 – Age-related Macular Degeneration primarily affecting people age 60 and older3, and Retinitis Pigmentosa which is the most common inherited cause of blindness in people between the ages of 20 and 60 worldwide4.
Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) afflicts approximately 15 million people in the US and an estimated 170 million worldwide5. Since AMD develops with age, with a growing aging population the trajectory is daunting – the number of people suffering from AMD is expected to rise to 196 million in 2020 and 288 million in 2040 (worldwide)6. Of the 15 million people currently with AMD in the US, over 2 million people suffer from late-stage AMD7. The World Health Organization estimates that of the 39.3 million blind people across the world close to 2 million people (5%) are blind due to AMD8.
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) afflicts approximately 100,000 people in the US9 and an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide10. The number of people suffering from RP has been fairly consistent throughout the years but the disease appears in patients at a fairly young age. Most patients with RP are considered legally blind by the age of 4011 and in the US 20,000 are totally blind12.
Hand in hand with the high prevalence and growth of retinal degenerative diseases, the treatment costs are soaring. It is estimated that the global cost of visual impairment due to AMD is $343 billion, including $255 billion in direct health care costs (2008 US dollars)13.
Nano Retina is focused on creating an artificial retina to bypass the damaged photoreceptor cells and send electric impulses through the functional retinal layer to the optic nerve. We believe that this solution will be applicable to many patients with severe vision loss due to Age Related Macular Degeneration and Retinitis Pigmentosa.