Next-gen OCT to track effects of microgravity on astronaut vision

A next-generation version of the Spectralis optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging platform is headed for the International Space Station (ISS).

Content Dam Bow Article 2018 6 Webpr Heidelberg Engineerings Spectralis Oct2 Module Headed To The International Space Station 1

A next-generation version of the Spectralis optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging platform from Heidelberg Engineering (Franklin, MA) is headed for the International Space Station (ISS). NASA has been conducting research on the effects of microgravity on vision using the platform since 2013.

Related: OCT system helps discover ocular changes in astronauts

NASA launched the next-generation Spectralis OCT platform with the company's OCT2 Module to the ISS aboard the Antares 230 Cygnus CRS OA-9, also known as Orbital Sciences CRS Flight 9E, on May 21, 2018 from Wallops Island, VA. The device will be installed on the ISS in late 2018.

The plaform features the company's TruTrack Active Eye Tracking technology, which uses a second laser beam to actively track the eye during OCT scanning to effectively 'freeze' the retina and avoid motion artifacts, says Ali Tafreshi, Director of Clinical Research for Heidelberg Engineering. "With this technology, a precise OCT image can be captured, even if the subject blinks or moves," he adds.

While the existing Spectralis OCT platform continues to function normally on the ISS, the next-generation version will optimize acquisition speed and capture more complex scans, while considering use of additional modalities such as OCT angiography, anterior segment imaging, ultra-widefield fundus imaging, and MultiColor.

"Upgrading to the OCT2 Module allows NASA to gain greater understanding of Space Flight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS), a condition astronauts commonly experience as a result of space flights," says Alex Huang, MD, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). "SANS can cause unilateral and bilateral optic disc edema. In association with the edema, globe flattening, choroidal and retinal folds, refractive error shifts, and nerve fiber layer infarcts have also been noted."

"The Spectralis OCT2 Module will allow us to image deeper structures in the eye that are affected by long-term space flight such as the posterior optic nerve head anatomy and the choroidal blood supply to the retina," says David M. Brown, MD, the retina specialist on the NASA SANS Research & Clinical Advisory Panel and a retinal surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. "Understanding changes in these structures will be critical for future long-term missions to Mars and have applicability to terrestrial research on both retina disease and glaucoma."

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