Never underestimate the power of mathematics to improve vision care! Engineers at the University of Illinois have married adaptive optics with retinal scanners to see individual rods and cones. This new technology could increase the accuracy and speed of eye disease diagnosis.
Astronomers use adaptive optics to improve the clarity of telescopes. This is typically done using complex hardware. The engineers decided to make corrections using computer calculations instead of hardware. And they applied the technology to instruments used to scan the retina, the tissue at the back of the eye. The retina contains rod and cone cells, which send signals to the brain when light falls on them.
A complete and healthy retina is essential to good vision. However, diseases of the retina are common, especially as people age. These diseases include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, macular holes and puckers, retinal detachment, and Stargardt’s disease. Early detection and a thorough understanding of any existing damage are important to the prognosis.
These algorithms could be used with existing hardware, which will save money and resources.
The new technology lets doctors get a close-up look at microscopic structures in the eye. Eye changes begin at the microscopic level, so any tool that makes these tiny parts of the eye more visible will improve care.
Source: “Computational high-resolution optical imaging of the living human retina.” Nature Photonics (2015) DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2015.102. http://phys.org/news/2015-06-technology-eye-cells-focus.html