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Tech

Low-cost OCT system could improve access to scans

29/07/2019
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A low-cost, highly portable optical coherence tomography (OCT) scanner has been unveiled, with its developers claiming it has the potential to bring the powerful technology to remote or underserved regions.

The team at Duke University behind the project have engineered the device to be 15x lighter and smaller than conventional OCT systems, and anticipate it could be sold for only one tenth of the cost of what is currently available on the market.

The device has also performed well in initial clinical trials. According to a study published in Translational Vision Science & Technology, 120 images captured by the device were 95% as sharp as images taken by commercial systems, allowing for accurate diagnosis.



"Ours can just sit on a shelf in the office and be taken down, used and put back without problems. We’ve scanned people in a Starbucks with it"
Adam Wax, Project developer at Duke University

The innovation that allows for the smaller and cheaper device is a new type of spectrometer. While conventional spectrometers have a high degree of accuracy, their complex array of lenses and mirrors is susceptible to misalignments due to bumps and changes in temperature. Wax’s device takes the light in a circular pattern in order to prevent misalignments from affecting results.

The end result is a device that is about the size of a lunchbox and could cost as little as US$15,000 (AU$21,400).

“Right now OCT devices sit in their own room and require a PhD scientist to tweak them to get everything working just right,” Wax said.

“Ours can just sit on a shelf in the office and be taken down, used and put back without problems. We’ve scanned people in a Starbucks with it.”

A study conducted by Dr J. Niklas Ulrich, retina surgeon and associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, confirmed the device’s effectiveness.

“It obviously lacks some bells and whistles of our $100k+ OCT scanners, but allows for accurate diagnosis of structural retinal disease as well as monitoring of treatment success,” Ulrich said.

Wax is currently in the process of commercialising the device through his startup Lumedica, which is now selling devices for research purposes.

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