NIH grant aims to advance optical coherence tomography for glaucoma diagnosis

OCTOBER 21, 2008 -- David Huang, holder of the Charles C. Manger III Chair in Corneal Laser Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), is the principal investigator of a new $8.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the US.

The five-year grant will target the diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma, a common, chronic degenerative eye disease that does not always present with initial symptoms and is often diagnosed in later stages when vision loss is irreversible.

"We hope to improve the diagnosis of glaucoma so people can know from a quick noninvasive imaging test whether they need to be treated or followed for glaucoma," Huang said. "Contrary to common belief, measuring eye pressure is not an accurate way of knowing whether someone has glaucoma."

The Advanced Imaging for Glaucoma study will seek to advance the technology of optical coherence tomography,, which offers a much more precise image of the eye structures affected by glaucoma.

Huang is co-inventor of the optical technology, along with Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito. They were part of a team that invented the technology at Harvard University in the early 1990s.

Huang hopes to build upon his knowledge of the technology to improve the speed so that a 3-D set of images can be taken in a fraction of a second. He and his team also will use optical technology to measure blood flow in the eye.

"We believe computer analysis of high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the optic nerve head and retina will be a much better way to follow glaucoma," Huang said. "These new developments will not only help us management glaucoma better, but may also be useful in the management of retinal diseases, neurologic diseases and cardiovascular diseases, which all have manifestations in the eye."

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