Using the same technique that prevents stars from ‘twinkling’ in telescopic images, researchers have captured the first undistorted microscopic images of the trabecular meshwork.
The Indiana University (IU) team behind the project hope the imaging technique could make it easier to study glaucoma, in particular why certain glaucoma treatments that target the trabecular meshwork fail.
“The problem is the meshwork can only be seen poorly with the normal instruments in your doctor’s office, due to its location where the iris inserts into the wall of the eye, as well as the near-total reflection that occurs when looking through the cornea,” Dr Brett King, associate clinical professor at the IU School of Optometry, said.
In order to overcome this challenge, the team modified an ophthalmic laser microscope with a mirror capable of changing shape in real time to correct for imperfections in the eye. A point of light is used as reference for the wider image, which informs the mirror’s changing shape.
Called ‘adaptive optics’, the device is accurate enough to visualise single cells or measure blood flow within the retina. It is the same technology used by astronomers to overcome the atmospheric distortions that cause stars to appear to twinkle in the night sky.
While the technique has been used in the past to image the retina, its latest application represents a breakthrough. UI researchers reported they were able to successfully image the trabecular meshwork of nine study participants, including two with pigment dispersion syndrome.
“Thanks to this research, the ocular drainage area of the eye can now be seen with much-improved clarity, which will improve our understanding of how this essential drainage area is being altered or damaged with age,” King said.
“We’re very hopeful that this technology may help improve understanding and management of glaucoma, since many members of our team are clinicians who’ve managed patients with this disease for years.”
IMAGE CAPTION: (From left) Ms Kaitlyn Sapoznik, Dr Thomas Gast, Dr Brett King and Dr Stephen Burns of the IU School of Optometry