Kirill Larin, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering (Houston, TX), has developed a technique called optical elastography that pairs optical imaging and analysis of tissue response to deformation. The technique, which employs high-resolution imaging and mechanical mapping of the cornea, can gauge the structural integrity of corneal tissue and could lead to more effective therapies for degenerative corneal disease and other eye diseases like glaucoma.
Optical elastography involves using a light puff of air (far less forceful than the test commonly used to diagnose glaucoma) to capture very small changes in the cornea's structure, Larin says. What's more, it measures changes in micrometers rather than millimeters, and reconstructs the mechanical properties of the cornea in three dimensions. Once a problem is detected, the technique could be helpful in developing personalized therapies for people with kerataconus, including determining the optimal duration of treatment, he says.
The technique also could allow ophthalmic surgeons to test for early stage corneal degeneration before performing LASIK surgery to correct near-sightedness, Larin says. Without a way to do so currently, people may experience serious and unexpected side effects from the surgery.
Future plans, Larin says, include expanding the technique to target the structure of the retina, a key to developing better treatments for glaucoma, and to the eye's lens, which will allow a better understanding of changes in vision.
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