John Werner and Robert Zawadzki, researchers in the UC Davis Health System Eye Center, have received an R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine for developing a non-invasive system for producing compact, ultra-high resolution, three-dimensional retinal imaging at the cellular level in real-time.
Werner headed the team comprising four institutions that developed the imaging method, known as MEMS-based Adaptive-Optics Optical Coherence Tomography. Last year, Werner received the Lighthouse International Pisart Vision Award, a major U.S. prize honoring people who have made an extraordinary contribution to the prevention, cure or treatment of severe vision impairment or blindness.
The R&D 100 Awards, widely recognized as the “Oscars of Innovation,” identify and celebrate the top high-technology products of the year, including sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items and high-energy physics. The awards span industry, academia and government-sponsored research.
Millions of people suffer from eye diseases that degrade the retina, causing blindness. Ophthalmologists observe the retina to diagnose a wide variety of blinding diseases. Conventional equipment, however, does not provide cellular-level resolution to enable the doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis.
MEMS-based Adaptive-Optics Optical Coherence Tomography allows precise in vivo visualization and characterization of the cellular layers in the human retina. A digitized record helps monitor disease progression and effects of therapeutic treatments.
The system uses adaptive optics to automatically measure the optical aberrations in the eye with a wavefront sensor. It rapidly compensates for these aberrations with a wavefront corrector, increasing lateral resolution by an order of magnitude, which refers to a number rounded to the nearest power of 10. The aberration-free signals are then integrated with the optical coherent tomography for 3D image acquisition. The implementation of adaptive optics in the system results in increasing lateral resolution by approximately an order of magnitude.
In addition to UC Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Indiana University School of Optometry and Boston Micromachines Corporation collaborated on the development of the system.