New laser scanners shed light on eye disease before vision loss occurs

December 22, 2017, Simon Fraser University
Credit: Simon Fraser University

SFU engineering science professor Marinko Sarunic has developed a high resolution retinal imaging scanner that will one day revolutionize eye care, helping ophthalmologists diagnose eye diseases before vision loss occurs.

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Its 100 million photoreceptors convert light into the images that our brain 'sees.'

Today, there are approximately one million Canadians with vision loss caused by major eye diseases such as wet age-related macular degeneration (Wet AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and others. The prevalence of vision loss in Canada is expected to double in the next 25 years. An estimated 75 per cent of vision loss can be treated or prevented through .

Sarunic's high-resolution scanner is on the cutting edge of vision science because it can produce high-resolution, 3-D cross-sectional images of the retina—including individual photoreceptors, and fine capillaries, or blood vessels. And unlike other high-resolution retinal scanners, which are the size of a billiard table, Sarunic's is the size of a shoebox. It's perfect for everyday use in medical clinics and hospitals.

"It's a breakthrough in clinical diagnostics," says Sarunic. "With the high-resolution scanner, ophthalmologists and optometrists can detect damage and changes to small numbers of individual photoreceptors, giving them a diagnosis before the patient loses vision, and the potential to take preventative measures."

Currently, physicians use low-resolution scanners that can only assess and diagnose the cause of dead retina cells after a patient's vision is impacted. Last year, ophthalmologists at Vancouver General Hospital's (VGH) Eye Care Centre spent eight months testing Sarunic's high-resolution scanner.

Dr. Eduardo Navajas, a vitreoretinal specialist, says the scanner eliminates the need for, and the complications related to, dye injections that are currently used to diagnose and monitor eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy and Wet AMD.

"Early detection of abnormal blood vessels caused by Wet AMD and diabetes is essential to saving a patient's vision," says Navajas. "Dr. Sarunic's new imaging technology is benefiting patients, allowing us to diagnose and treat Wet AMD and before patients develop bleeding and permanent damage to their retina."

Fast Facts:

Today, there are approximately one million Canadians with vision loss caused by major eye diseases such as wet age-related macular degeneration (Wet AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and others.

The prevalence of vision loss in Canada is expected to double in the next 25 years

The scanner eliminates the need for, and the complications related to, dye injections that are currently used to diagnose and monitor eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy and Wet AMD 75 per cent of vision loss can be treated or prevented through early detection.

Wet AMD accounts for 90 per cent of the severe vision loss caused by macular degeneration

Diabetic retinopathy occurs in people who have diabetes. It causes progressive damage to the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious, sight-threatening complication of diabetes.

Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.

Explore further: At-home vision monitoring app may improve patient care

Related Stories

At-home vision monitoring app may improve patient care

November 13, 2017
Patients with age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy who used a mobile application to test their vision at home got comparable results to in-office vision testing, according to research presented today at ...

Researchers find vessel damage may precede diabetic retinopathy

April 27, 2016
A University of Iowa-led study of diabetes-related vision impairment holds good news—and some bad news—for patients with signs of these disorders.

Researchers discover heart drug could reduce diabetes related blindness

June 14, 2016
Researchers at Queen's University Belfast and University College London have discovered that a drug, originally developed to treat cardiovascular disease, has the potential to reduce diabetes related blindness.

Signs of eye damage from staring at solar eclipse

August 24, 2017
Ophthalmologists expect to see a few patients who might have injured to their eyes by staring at the sun during Monday's solar eclipse.

Diabetes leading to blindness in many people

November 30, 2012
Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults 20 to 74 years old. Dr. Michael Grodin, co-director of retinal services and director of clinical research at Katzen Eye Group, with locations around Baltimore, ...

Recommended for you

Widespread errors in 'proofreading' cause inherited blindness

October 12, 2018
Mistakes in "proofreading" the genetic code of retinal cells is the cause of a form of inherited blindness, retinitis pigmentosa (RP) caused by mutations in splicing factors.

Gene therapy breakthrough in treating rare form of blindness

October 9, 2018
Positive results of the world's first gene therapy trial for a genetic cause of blindness known as choroideremia have been reported in Nature Medicine.

Gene changes driving myopia reveal new focus for drug development

October 9, 2018
Myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness) develop through different molecular pathways, according to a new study publishing October 9 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Andrei Tkatchenko of Columbia ...

Dynamin-binding protein linked to congenital cataracts

October 4, 2018
Cataracts, a condition in which the eyes' natural lenses get clouded, are the most common cause of vision loss in older people and can be corrected by routine surgery. But congenital cataracts, which occur in infants and ...

Eye discovery to pave way for more successful corneal transplants

October 1, 2018
A team of eye specialists at The University of Nottingham has made another novel discovery that could help to improve the success of corneal transplants for patients whose sight has been affected by disease.

New study confirms Mediterranean diet prevents a leading cause of blindness

October 1, 2018
Evidence is mounting that a poor diet plays an important role in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the United States. A large collaboration of researchers from the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.