Researchers have developed the first instrument that can provide a detailed image of the entire eye. By incorporating a lens that changes optical parameters in response to an electric current, the device can produce higher quality images than currently available. The imaging system could make eye examinations faster and more comfortable for patients by avoiding the need to undergo imaging with multiple instruments to look at different areas of the eye.
The new optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging system engineered by researchers at Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland, and Universidad de Murcia, Spain, can image both the front and the back of the eye and can also image the interfaces of the eye’s vitreous gel with the retina and lens with unprecedented detail. This new imaging capability could allow scientists to better understand how the vitreous gel that fills the eye interacts with the retina and why it can sometimes become detached with aging.
Current technology images the eye to about three millimeters in depth and changing focus to be able to resolve the front and back of the eye is challenging with traditional optics. To overcome this, the researchers incorporated an electrically tunable lens into the OCT system and used a laser that can rapidly switch between different wavelengths. The electrically tunable optics provide a greater range of possible focus while the swept-light source laser gives better resolution and faster scanning.
The instrument was used to measure the anatomical characteristics of the eyes of seven healthy people. Measurements obtained correlated well with those documented with an ocular biometer, the standard clinical device used today.
The researchers are now working to optimize the instrument for imaging of the entire vitreous gel, not just where it interfaces with the lens and retina. The vitreous gel has not been studied intensively and is difficult to image because it is highly transparent. The ability to image the entire vitreous could allow OCT to be used to guide procedures that involve the removal of the vitreous gel from the eye, which is sometimes done to repair retinal detachment.
The research is published in the journal Optica.