Advances in Retinal Prosthetic Research: A Systematic Review of Engineering and Clinical Characteristics of Current Prosthetic Initiatives

Curr Eye Res. 2017 Mar;42(3):334-347. doi: 10.1080/02713683.2016.1270326. Epub 2017 Feb 26.


Purpose: To date, reviews of retinal prostheses have focused primarily on devices undergoing human trials in the Western Hemisphere and fail to capture significant advances in materials and engineering research in countries such as Japan and Korea, as well as projects in early stages of development. To address these gaps, this systematic review examines worldwide advances in retinal prosthetic research, evaluates engineering characteristics and clinical progress of contemporary device initiatives, and identifies potential directions for future research in the field of retinal prosthetics.

Methods: A literature search using PubMed, Google Scholar, and IEEExplore was conducted following the PRISMA Guidelines for Systematic Review. Inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed papers demonstrating progress in human or animal trials and papers discussing the prosthetic engineering design. For each initiative, a description of the device, its engineering considerations, and recent clinical results were provided.

Results: Ten prosthetic initiatives met our inclusion criteria and were organized by stimulation location. Of these initiatives, four have recently completed human trials, three are undergoing multi- or single-center human trials, and three are undergoing preclinical animal testing. Only the Argus II (FDA 2013, CE 2011) has obtained FDA approval for use in the United States; the Alpha-IMS (CE 2013) has achieved the highest visual acuity using a Landolt-C test to date and is the only device presently undergoing a multicenter clinical trial.

Conclusion: Several distinct approaches to retinal stimulation have been successful in eliciting visual precepts in animals and/or humans. However, many clinical needs are still not met and engineering challenges must be addressed before a retinal prosthesis with the capability to fully and safely restore functional vision can be realized.

Keywords: Bionic eye; retinal prosthesis; retinitis pigmentosa; visual prosthesis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bioengineering / trends*
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Humans
  • Ophthalmology*
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / surgery*
  • Visual Prosthesis*