Handheld Imager Poised To Provide New Insights Into Eye And Brain Diseases

The first handheld ophthalmology instrument with resolution-boosting adaptive optics technology that can image individual photoreceptors in the eye has been developed and demonstrated by researchers. The new portable instrument will improve eye disease diagnosis and allow early detection of brain-related diseases and trauma.

The researchers describe their new lightweight ophthalmology instrument in Optica, which measures only ten by five by 14 centimeters. They put the device through its paces on children and adults, demonstrating its ability to capture images of even the tiniest photoreceptors near the retina’s center, which play an important role in vision.

Photoreceptors are the only neurons in the body that can be imaged non-invasively. They are specialized neurons that convert light entering the eye into signals sent to the brain. Imaging photoreceptors is important not only for diagnosing eye diseases but it may also provide insights into brain processes. Preliminary research has shown that changes in the retina can be seen during the early stages of diseases like Alzheimer’s and after traumatic brain injuries like concussions.

Until now, high-resolution photoreceptor imaging systems required large, heavy components on an optical table that could only be used with cooperative adults sitting upright. The portable ophthalmology instrument can potentially extend this important imaging technique to children, infants, and adults who may be unable to sit upright and stare straight ahead.

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