Seeing the eye like never before

September 10, 2020

While there is no cure for blindness and macular degeneration, scientists have accelerated the process to find a cure by visualizing the inner workings of the eye and its diseases at the cellular level.

In an effort led by UW Medicine, researchers successfully modified the standard process of optical coherence tomography (OCT) to detect minute changes in response to light in individual photoreceptors in the living eye.

The results were published Sept. 9 in Science Advances.

"We have now accelerated the life cycle of vision restoration," said lead author Vimal Prabhu Pandiyan, a ophthalmology researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The study was funded in part by the National Eye Institute's Audacious Goals Initiative, which embraces bold ideas in helping people to see better.

The OCT modifications outlined in the study will help researchers who want to test therapies such as stem cells or gene therapy to treat retinal disease. They now have the tools to zoom in on the retina to evaluate whether the therapy is working.

Corresponding author Ramkumar Sabesan, a UW assistant research professor of ophthalmology, said the only way to objectively measure the eye currently is to look at a wide retinal area. Sabesan said researchers currently can attach electrodes on the cornea but it captures a large area with around 1 million cells. Now they are talking about nanometers, or one billionth of a meter - a small fraction of the size of a cell, providing orders of magnitude improvement.

"Since photoreceptors are the primary cells affected in retinal generation and the target cells of many treatments, noninvasive visualization of their physiology at high resolution is invaluable," the researchers wrote.

Cone photoreceptors are the building blocks of sight, capturing light and funneling information to the other retinal neurons. They are a key ingredient in how we process images and patterns of light falling on the retina.

Optical coherence tomography has been around since the 1990s. In this study, researchers used OCT with adaptive optics, line-scanning and phase-resolved acquisition to deliver the concept of Thomas Young's interference to the human eye. With the ability to zoom in on the retina at high speeds, they found that cone photoreceptors deform at the scale of nanometers when they first capture light and begin the process of seeing.

As Sabesan explained: "You can imagine a picture that looks visually and structurally normal. But when we interrogate the inner working of the retina at a cellular scale, we may detect a dysfunction sooner than what other modalities can do. A doctor then can prescribe medication to intervene early or follow the time-course of its repair via gene therapy or stem cell therapy in the future."

"We will now have a way to see if these therapies are acting in the way they should," Sabesan said.
-end-
The study also involved researchers at Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Riverside.

The study was funded by NIH grants U01EY025501, EY027941, EY029710, EY025501, and P30EY001730; Research to Prevent Blindness Career Development Award; Foundation Fighting Blindness; Murdock Charitable Trust; Burroughs Welcome Fund Careers at the Scientific Interfaces; and Unrestricted grant from the Research to Prevent Blindness.

University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.