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New UMD microscopy method could improve LASIK surgery

A newly developed microscopy technique has the potential to improve LASIK surgery by using non-ablative technology to eliminate the need for the ‘surgical’ element of the procedure.

Developed by bioengineering researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD), the microscopy technique would allow doctors to perform LASIK procedures based on precise measurements of how the eye focuses light, rather than approximations and guesswork

“This could represent a tremendous first for LASIK and other refractive procedures,” assistant professor Giuliano Scarcelli, study lead at the UMD Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BIOE), said.

“Light is focused by the eye’s cornea because of its shape and what is known as its refractive index. But until now, we could only measure its shape. Thus, today’s refractive procedures rely solely on observed changes to the cornea, and they are not always accurate.”

Together with his research team at the Optics Biotech Laboratory, Scarcelli has developed a technique that can measure the local refractive index using Brillouin spectroscopy—a light-scattering technology that was previously used to detect the mechanical properties of tissue and cells without disrupting or destroying them.

“This means that we could measure the refractive index of cells and tissue at locations in the body—such as the eyes—that can only be accessed from one side," Scarcelli said.

Equipped with the precise degree of corneal refraction, the team hopes that doctors could tailor a LASIK procedure to allow a patient to walk away with perfect vision, rather than just improved vision. It may even make cutting into the cornea unnecessary.

The study was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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