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High-res eye scanner a diagnostic breakthrough

24/01/2018By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
A shoebox-sized retinal scanner likened to ‘Google Maps for the retina’ has been hailed as a breakthrough in clinical diagnostics.

The device, which produces intricate pictures of the eye detailed enough to reveal individual photoreceptors and fine capillaries, could even lead to the detection of eye disease such as neovascular AMD before vision loss occurs.

Aside from producing high resolution, 3D cross-sectional images, it’s also notable insofar as it is much smaller than other high-res retinal scanners, which are around the same size as a billiard table.

The device’s inventor, Professor Marinko Sarunic from Simon Fraser University, said the its size and image quality meant it was perfect for everyday use in medical clinics and hospitals.

“With the high-resolution scanner, ophthalmologists and optometrists can detect damage and changes to small numbers of individual photoreceptors, giving them a diagnosis before the patient loses vision, and the potential to take preventative measures,” he explained.

The scanner is said to be so advanced that fellow engineering scientist Professor Mirza Faisal Beg described it as the “equivalent of Google Maps for the retina” in an interview with Optometry Today.

“The blood vessels are the highways and the different parts of the retina are the different neighbourhoods. A clinician can zoom in to different regions of the retina, and in doing so they can get an amazing real-time picture of what is going on behind the eye,” he said.

It has already been used in a practical setting, with ophthalmologists from Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) testing it for eight months last year, where it also received positive reviews.

Dr Eduardo Navajas, a vitreoretinal specialist from VGH, explained that the scanner eliminated the need for, and the complications related to, dye injections currently used to diagnose and monitor eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy.

“Early detection of abnormal blood vessels caused by Wet AMD and diabetes is essential to saving a patient’s vision,” he said.

“Dr Sarunic’s new imaging technology is benefiting patients, allowing us to diagnose and treat Wet AMD and diabetic eye disease before patients develop bleeding and permanent damage to their retina.”

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