An early glimpse of an infant’s retinal cells is now possible with the use of a brand-new handheld optical coherence tomography (OCT) system.
Scientists at Duke University in the US have developed a system that is “the size of a pack of cigarettes, weighs no more than a few slices of bread, and is capable of gathering detailed information about the retina’s cellular system,” the research team highlighted.
The handheld device relies on a number of technological advances, including a smaller scanning mirror, the use of converging – rather than collimating – light and custom lenses, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Photonics.
The new monocular device, which is held by a clinician over a child’s eye, can measure the density of photoreceptors. It has already been tested out in infants – something not possible with the older, bulky systems that require a person to sit still and focus for an extended period of time.
The limitations of previous devices mean that the early development of the retina – and the impact of injury or disease on a young child’s photoreceptors – is not well understood, first author and PhD student, Dr Francesco LaRocca, highlighted.
He explained: “Because children have never been imaged with these systems before, there’s no gold standard that we can compare it to. The results do, however, match theories of how cones migrate as the eye matures.
“The tests also showed different microscopic pathological structures that are not normally possible to see with current low-resolution, clinical-grade handheld systems,” Dr LaRocca said.
The research team, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Hartwell Foundation, is currently refining the prototype.
Image credit: Joseph Izatt, Duke University