There’s exciting news on dealing with retinal issues, many of which are diabetes-related: European researchers have developed a new real-time scanner to create a full image of the moving eye, without any blurring. Teaming up with the photonics innovation hub ACTPHAST 4R, scientists at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam are moving their scanner concept to demonstrator stage to acquire data much faster than existing optical imaging technologies.
Some degenerative eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular holes, and retinal diseases can progress to blindness if they are not diagnosed in their early stages. Eye abnormalities can be so very subtle in the early phase that standard OCT (optical coherence tomography) can miss these tiny changes. Because our eyes are constantly moving to refresh the visual input, even at a microscopic level, it makes eye imaging very difficult without having blurred images.
Eye specialists use OCT to build up an image of the retina by capturing cross-sectional ‘slices’. But OCT technology has never been fast enough to take a full image of a moving eye without blurring or expecting the patient to sit incredibly still.
Diagnoses of eye diseases that could lead to blindness require good quality images at an early stage. Eye abnormalities can be so very subtle in the early phase that even high-quality OCT can miss these tiny changes. Because our eyes are constantly moving to refresh the visual input, even at a microscopic level, it makes eye imaging very difficult without having blurred images. The new scanner works by acquiring data from the light signal at rapid speeds by ‘bundling’ groups of information together; the rapid switch enables high quality moving footage, or a ‘video’ of the eye.
According to the lead researcher, Dr Imran Avci, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at VU Amsterdam, OCT “uses ‘eye-tracking’ which involves many elements to do it right. However, by creating an image before the eye moves (in 5-10 sec or so) then there is no need for tracking schemes. The real-time scanner will acquire the light signal data at least hundred times quicker than OCT systems that exist today. As Dr. Avci puts it: “We can speed up the traditional OCT imaging system while keeping its sensitivity at a reasonable value. Our imaging speed improves while the signal to noise ratio is not sacrificed too much. The faster speed makes it possible to image dynamic situations or fast-moving parts of the body, lie the eye”.
The scanner was developed by Dr. Avci’s team in collaboration with ACTPHAST 4R that provide access to the right know-how and equipment to overcome critical photonics challenges, including the invaluable opportunities for hands-on training at the facilities of the top competence centres in the key photonics technologies for the application.
We’ll continue to follow the development of this new technology that has the potential to be a retinal imaging breakthrough to swiftly detect eye disease and prevent blindness.