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‘CNN 10’ spotlights two USC inventions

by Katie McKissick

“The CNN 10,” a compilation of new inventions in technology and related fields with game-changing potential, has been announced by the cable news network. Some of the innovations are in the prototype stage, while others are now available on the market. Two of the 10 inventions originated at USC.

The first is the Argus II artificial retinal implant, which has been shown to restore sight to some people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa. The first commercially available device of its kind was developed by University Professor Mark Humayun, professor of biomedical engineering, ophthalmology and cell and neurobiology at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

A significant part of that work was conducted under the auspices of the BioMimetics Engineering Systems Center, an Engineering Research Center supported by the National Science Foundation.

The CNN 10

“The CNN 10″ includes two inventions that originated at USC. (Photo/courtesy of CNN)

Argus II is manufactured by Second Sight Medical Products, headed by Robert Greenberg, Humayun’s former graduate student at Johns Hopkins. The device was approved for use in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February.

Humayun has a personal link to the crippling effect of blindness, and it inspired him to lead a 25-year effort to engineer a solution.

“I vividly remember when my grandmother went blind,” Humayun said. “I remember in medical school taking her to one of the best hospitals, if not the best hospital, the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

“They looked at her eye condition, and said they didn’t know what to do,” he added. “I saw firsthand this incredible need to be able to help patients with this blindness. She just gave up on life.”

The first implant of the Argus II occurred in 2002 at the USC Eye Institute, with Humayun heading the operation, suturing a fingernail-sized package containing a computer chip to the outside of the eye wall and attaching an even smaller microelectrode array directly to the surface of the retina.

Also on the CNN 10 list is Oculus Rift, a head-mounted, virtual reality device designed for a more immersive video game experience. Rift was designed by Palmer Luckey, a 20-year-old self-taught engineer who worked at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The institute’s staff includes researchers, designers and engineers from USC Viterbi and the USC School of Cinematic Arts, among other schools and organizations.