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MICHIGAN MAN AMONG 1ST IN US TO GET 'BIONIC EYE'

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 08:57 Published in National News

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- A degenerative eye disease slowly robbed Roger Pontz of his vision.

Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a teenager, Pontz has been almost completely blind for years. Now, thanks to a high-tech procedure that involved the surgical implantation of a "bionic eye," he's regained enough of his eyesight to catch small glimpses of his wife, grandson and cat.

"It's awesome. It's exciting - seeing something new every day," Pontz said during a recent appointment at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. The 55-year-old former competitive weightlifter and factory worker is one of four people in the U.S. to receive an artificial retina since the Food and Drug Administration signed off on its use last year.

The facility in Ann Arbor has been the site of all four such surgeries since FDA approval. A fifth is scheduled for next month.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited disease that causes slow but progressive vision loss due to a gradual loss of the light-sensitive retinal cells called rods and cones. Patients experience loss of side vision and night vision, then central vision, which can result in near blindness.

Not all of the 100,000 or so people in the U.S. with retinitis pigmentosa can benefit from the bionic eye. An estimated 10,000 have vision low enough, said Dr. Brian Mech, an executive with Second Sight Medical Products Inc., the Sylmar, Calif.-based company that makes the device. Of those, about 7,500 are eligible for the surgery.

The artificial implant in Pontz's left eye is part of a system developed by Second Sight that includes a small video camera and transmitter housed in a pair of glasses.

Images from the camera are converted into a series of electrical pulses that are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes on the surface of the retina. The pulses stimulate the retina's remaining healthy cells, causing them to relay the signal to the optic nerve.

The visual information then moves to the brain, where it is translated into patterns of light that can be recognized and interpreted, allowing the patient to regain some visual function.

When wearing the glasses, which Pontz refers to as his "eyes," he can identify and grab his cat and figure out that a flash of light is his grandson hightailing it to the kitchen.

The visual improvement is sometimes startling for Pontz and his wife, Terri, who is just as amazed at her husband's progress as he is.

"I said something I never thought I'd say: `Stop staring at me while I'm eating,'" Terri Pontz said.

She drives her husband the nearly 200 miles from tiny Reed City, Mich., to Ann Arbor for check-ups and visits with occupational therapist Ashley Howson, who helps Roger Pontz reawaken his visual memory and learn techniques needed to make the most of his new vision.

At the recent visit, Howson handed Pontz white and black plates, instructed him to move them back and forth in front of light and dark backgrounds and asked that he determine their color.

Back home, Terri Pontz helps her husband practice the techniques he learns in Ann Arbor.

For them, the long hours on the road and the homework assignments are a blessing.

"What's it worth to see again? It's worth everything," Terri Pontz said.

The artificial retina procedure has been performed several-dozen times over the past few years in Europe, and the expectation is that it will find similar success in the U.S., where the University of Michigan is one of 12 centers accepting consultations for patients.

Candidates for the retinal prosthesis must be 25 or older with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa that has progressed to the point of having "bare light" or no light perception in both eyes.

Dr. Thiran Jayasundera, one of two physicians who performed the 4.5-hour surgery on Roger Pontz, is scheduled to discuss his experiences with the retinal prosthesis process during a meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery on Friday in Boston. He calls it a "game-changer."

Pontz agrees: "I can walk through the house with ease. If that's all I get out of this, it'd be great."

---

Online:

HTTP://WWW.KELLOGG.UMICH.EDU

HTTP://WWW.2-SIGHT.COM

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about ourPRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

MICHIGAN MAN AMONG 1ST IN US TO GET 'BIONIC EYE'

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 08:57 Published in Health & Fitness

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- A degenerative eye disease slowly robbed Roger Pontz of his vision.

Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a teenager, Pontz has been almost completely blind for years. Now, thanks to a high-tech procedure that involved the surgical implantation of a "bionic eye," he's regained enough of his eyesight to catch small glimpses of his wife, grandson and cat.

"It's awesome. It's exciting - seeing something new every day," Pontz said during a recent appointment at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. The 55-year-old former competitive weightlifter and factory worker is one of four people in the U.S. to receive an artificial retina since the Food and Drug Administration signed off on its use last year.

The facility in Ann Arbor has been the site of all four such surgeries since FDA approval. A fifth is scheduled for next month.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited disease that causes slow but progressive vision loss due to a gradual loss of the light-sensitive retinal cells called rods and cones. Patients experience loss of side vision and night vision, then central vision, which can result in near blindness.

Not all of the 100,000 or so people in the U.S. with retinitis pigmentosa can benefit from the bionic eye. An estimated 10,000 have vision low enough, said Dr. Brian Mech, an executive with Second Sight Medical Products Inc., the Sylmar, Calif.-based company that makes the device. Of those, about 7,500 are eligible for the surgery.

The artificial implant in Pontz's left eye is part of a system developed by Second Sight that includes a small video camera and transmitter housed in a pair of glasses.

Images from the camera are converted into a series of electrical pulses that are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes on the surface of the retina. The pulses stimulate the retina's remaining healthy cells, causing them to relay the signal to the optic nerve.

The visual information then moves to the brain, where it is translated into patterns of light that can be recognized and interpreted, allowing the patient to regain some visual function.

When wearing the glasses, which Pontz refers to as his "eyes," he can identify and grab his cat and figure out that a flash of light is his grandson hightailing it to the kitchen.

The visual improvement is sometimes startling for Pontz and his wife, Terri, who is just as amazed at her husband's progress as he is.

"I said something I never thought I'd say: `Stop staring at me while I'm eating,'" Terri Pontz said.

She drives her husband the nearly 200 miles from tiny Reed City, Mich., to Ann Arbor for check-ups and visits with occupational therapist Ashley Howson, who helps Roger Pontz reawaken his visual memory and learn techniques needed to make the most of his new vision.

At the recent visit, Howson handed Pontz white and black plates, instructed him to move them back and forth in front of light and dark backgrounds and asked that he determine their color.

Back home, Terri Pontz helps her husband practice the techniques he learns in Ann Arbor.

For them, the long hours on the road and the homework assignments are a blessing.

"What's it worth to see again? It's worth everything," Terri Pontz said.

The artificial retina procedure has been performed several-dozen times over the past few years in Europe, and the expectation is that it will find similar success in the U.S., where the University of Michigan is one of 12 centers accepting consultations for patients.

Candidates for the retinal prosthesis must be 25 or older with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa that has progressed to the point of having "bare light" or no light perception in both eyes.

Dr. Thiran Jayasundera, one of two physicians who performed the 4.5-hour surgery on Roger Pontz, is scheduled to discuss his experiences with the retinal prosthesis process during a meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery on Friday in Boston. He calls it a "game-changer."

Pontz agrees: "I can walk through the house with ease. If that's all I get out of this, it'd be great."

---

Online:

HTTP://WWW.KELLOGG.UMICH.EDU

HTTP://WWW.2-SIGHT.COM

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about ourPRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Wainwright injures knee, Cardinals blank Mets 3-0

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 23:34 Published in Sports
 
NEW YORK (AP) -- Adam Wainwright threw seven neat innings before leaving with a knee injury, and Jon Jay hit a two-run single that sent the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.
 
Left fielder Matt Holliday robbed Chris Young of a tying homer, one night after the Mets played some dazzling defense of their own to post a shutout in the series opener.
 
Wainwright (4-1) faced the minimum through four innings and outpitched Dillon Gee. It was the second consecutive scoreless start for Wainwright, who tossed a two-hit shutout last Thursday at Washington.
 
This time, the right-hander allowed four singles and walked none to extend his scoreless streak to 17 innings. He struck out three but was pulled after 79 pitches following an awkward tumble in the seventh.
 
Young fisted a short flare between the mound and first base. Wainwright went after it and lunged at the ball, but was unable to grab it and fell to the grass. Young was tagged out by first baseman Matt Adams, and Wainwright never threw another pitch.
 
He left the game with a hyperextended right knee.
 
Kevin Siegrist tossed a perfect eighth and Trevor Rosenthal completed the Cardinals' fourth shutout in 21 games this season. He worked around two walks in a hitless inning for his sixth save.
 
Holliday added an RBI single off Jose Valverde in the ninth for the Cardinals, who had lost four of six following a four-game winning streak. St. Louis starters entered with a 0.90 ERA in the previous eight games.
 
Even when Wainwright made a mistake, he got help. Holliday leaped at the fence to take a two-run homer away from Young in the fifth. Two batters later, Wainwright hung a curve but Travis d'Arnaud banged it right to shortstop for an inning-ending double play.
 
Curtis Granderson went 0 for 3 for the Mets before a sparse crowd announced at a season-low 20,220. The slumping newcomer is hitless in his last 22 at-bats during a 4-for-50 slide.
 
New York had won five of seven.
 
Rain fell in the first inning and Gee (1-1) matched zeros with Wainwright until the fourth.
 
Holliday drew a leadoff walk and the Cardinals loaded the bases on consecutive singles by Adams and Yadier Molina. Jay hit a sharp grounder through the box for a two-run single that ended New York's season-best scoreless streak at 20 innings.
 
Gee, who beat Arizona last Wednesday, had gone 10 innings without giving up a run.
 
The right-hander buckled down and prevented further damage - even after Jay prevented a double play with a hard slide at the plate that took out d'Arnaud. Mets manager Terry Collins came out for a chat with umpire John Kellogg, but the play looked clean.
 
Gee gave up six hits over six innings in the latest solid outing for Mets starters, who have a 1.98 ERA in the last eight games.
 
NOTES: Molina extended his hitting streak to 13 games. ... Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said LHP Tyler Lyons will get another start this weekend against Pittsburgh. Pitching in place of injured Joe Kelly, Lyons allowed two runs in six innings of a 2-0 loss to the Mets on Monday night after he was called up from Triple-A Memphis. "He impressed us," Matheny said. "He gave us a chance." ... Matheny said slumping CF Peter Bourjos will play against left-handers, and the Mets are scheduled to start LHP Jonathon Niese on Wednesday night. Matheny kept Jay in the lineup Tuesday, however, because he thinks the Cardinals need to "capitalize" on the good at-bats he's taking right now. ... Omar Quintanilla was at shortstop for the Mets instead of regular starter Ruben Tejada, who had a strong game Monday. Quintanilla entered 4 for 12 against Wainwright but went 0 for 2 with an error and a diving catch. ... Collins said OF Bobby Abreu is likely to get his first start for the Mets in the series finale Thursday against RHP Lance Lynn. ... David Wright's hitting streak ended at 12 games.
 

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