New imaging technique could improve the diagnosis, treatment of glaucoma

March 7, 2018 by Steve Martin, Indiana University
Donald T. Miller's ophthalmoscopy invention shows tightly packed retinal ganglion neurons that are disrupted only by blood vessels and capillaries. Credit: Indiana University

The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, projects the number of Americans affected by glaucoma will more than double between 2010 and 2050, from 2.7 million to 6.3 million.

Glaucoma causes blindness by damaging cells in the retina, which transforms light into electrical impulses and transmits them to the brain. Donald T. Miller, a professor in the Indiana University School of Optometry, said thousands of cells must die before current clinical methods detect glaucoma.

"The cells are very small, highly translucent and only dimly reflective. This prevents clinical instruments from creating sufficiently sharp images to see the damage," Miller said. "If eye care practitioners could see this damage earlier, when it affects individual cells, it could dramatically improve the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma and other diseases of the retina."

Miller and his research associates have created a new, noninvasive ophthalmoscopy method to visualize and count at the back of the eye. The research was published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, or PNAS.

Zhuolin Liu, the first author on the PNAS paper and a research associate in Miller's laboratory at the time of the study, said the new method is an optical microscope with extremely high resolution and sensitivity.

"It enables eye care practitioners to directly count, for the first time, , the cells that die in glaucoma," Liu said. "This could allow them to assess damage long before current clinical instruments allow them to."

This method improves the performance of optical coherence tomography, or OCT, which is the primary method used to detect eye disease in a clinic. Miller's laboratory obtains images that have higher resolution and higher contrast by using adaptive optics. The technology was originally developed in astronomy to remove the effects of atmospheric blur from telescope images.

"Our method provides a form of retinal biopsy," Liu said. "But it uses light, so it is noninvasive and allows repeated assessment of the same cells. By refocusing the instrument, we can obtain sharp images of cells at any depth in the retina, from cells on the surface to those that line the retinal bottom and keep the retina functioning."

Miller and his research associates are working to make the new method sensitive to the physiological activity of .

"If we can achieve this, it opens new, previously unimagined ways to map functional aspects of retinal neural circuitry and to detect the earliest cellular changes associated with disease onset," he said.

Miller disclosed the new method to the IU Innovation and Commercialization Office, which protects, markets and licenses intellectual property developed at Indiana University so it can be commercialized by industry. IU ICO has applied for a patent on the method.

"Integrating the into a commercial OCT product for eye care will require federal approval," Miller said. "A commercial version could be readily made much smaller than the current laboratory version to meet requirements for clinic use."

Explore further: Research advance may lead to new treatments for glaucoma

More information: Zhuolin Liu et al. Imaging and quantifying ganglion cells and other transparent neurons in the living human retina, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1711734114

Related Stories

Research advance may lead to new treatments for glaucoma

March 22, 2016
Researchers have developed a tool to not only model the underlying disease mechanisms of glaucoma, but also to help discover and test new pharmacological strategies to combat the neurodegeneration that occurs in patients ...

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

December 22, 2017
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.

Early retina cell changes in glaucoma identified

February 11, 2015
Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness, usually stems from elevated eye pressure, which in turn damages and destroys specialized neurons in the eye known as retinal ganglion cells. To better understand these cellular ...

New technique analyses blood flow in glaucoma patients

May 20, 2014
The link between blood flow in the retina and the development of glaucoma can now be measured accurately for the first time. This was made possible by the further development of an established measurement method, optical ...

New eye test detects earliest signs of glaucoma

April 27, 2017
A simple eye test could help to solve the biggest global cause of irreversible blindness, glaucoma.

Recommended for you

Newly formed blood vessels may contribute to eye disease

September 14, 2018
Newly formed blood vessels may be cracks in the barrier between the bloodstream and the eye, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Eye disease can cause blindness, and it's on the rise

August 29, 2018
A new study into recent cases of ocular syphilis warns increasing numbers of people are at risk of permanent damage to their vision.

INSiGHT identifies unique retinal regulatory genes

August 28, 2018
Vision begins in the retina, a light-sensing neural network in the eye that is critical for our ability observe the world around us. Researches at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital and the Hospital for ...

Alzheimer's one day may be predicted during eye exam

August 23, 2018
It may be possible in the future to screen patients for Alzheimer's disease using an eye exam.

Researchers find potential new gene therapy for blinding disease

August 20, 2018
The last year has seen milestones in the gene therapy field, with FDA approvals to treat cancer and an inherited blinding disorder. New findings from a team led by University of Pennsylvania vision scientists, who have in ...

Sleep in your contacts, risk serious eye damage: CDC

August 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—A 59-year-old man was in the shower, wiping his eyes with a towel, when he heard a popping sound and felt pain shoot through his left eye.

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.