Bionic Sight: FDA OKs Telescope Eye Implant

Pea-sized Telescope Gives Hope to Millions Suffering from degenerative disease

July 8, 2010— -- Seven years ago, life changed for Ed Nungesser in the twinkling of an eye after his wife told him about a report she saw on World News.

The report was about doctors testing a new technology to implant tiny telescopes into people's eyes as a way to improve eyesight.

Nungesser had been legally blind for years. He suffers from macular degeneration.

Macular Degeneration

The disease is one of the leading causes of blindness in older adults, attacking one's central vision. It stops sufferers from reading, watching TV and, at its worst, being able to recognize other people's faces.

"As far as I was concerned they could have taken my eye out anyway because I couldn't see anything," Nungesser said.

Experimental Procedure

Two months after seeing the report on ABC News, Nungesser signed up to be part of a trial group for the new technology. He had a tiny telescope inserted into his eye and doctors were able to restore his eyesight.

His young granddaughter, Faith, was the first thing he saw.

"I could see her face," Nungesser said. "That's when I knew this is definitely going to work."To learn more about this new technology, click HERE to visit CentraSight's website.A Fraction Of the Size of A Penny

What seemed like magic is really science at its best -- an implantable miniature telescope, a fraction of the size of a penny, tucked inside your eye.

"It absolutely functions as a telescope," said Kathryn Colby, MD, of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "It has two wide-angle, high-power lenses. They are just very, very small."

Doctors surgically insert the telescope into one eye to provide better central vision. The other eye is left alone to provide peripheral vision. The human brain fuses the two different viewpoints into one single image.

FDA OKs Tiny Telescope Implanted In Eye

U.S. health officials recently approved this first-of-its-kind technology.The FDA cautions that the surgery won't help all of the 2 million Americans who suffer from macular degeneration. It's only helpful for those 75 years or older who have a certain degree of vision loss and who also need a cataract removed.

The surgery won't restore vision to 20/20 strength but for Nungesser, it's given him the ability to do the simple things he couldn't do before, like use a cutting board and knife to prepare a meal or read to his granddaughter.

Telescopes have been used since the days of Galileo to bring the heavens close, but in Nungesser's case that vision comes complete with an angel, his granddaughter Faith.