A non-contact laser imaging system, developed by engineering researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada, could help doctors diagnose and treat eye diseases that cause blindness much earlier than is currently possible.
The patented technology, known as photoacoustic remote sensing (PARS), uses multi-coloured lasers to almost instantly image human tissue without touching it. This aims to detect telltale signs of major blinding diseases in retinal blood and tissue that typically go unseen until it is too late.
For the first time, not just in ophthalmology but in the entire medical field, diagnosis and treatment of disease could be made prior to structural change and functional loss
The non-invasive, non-contact approach dramatically improves both patient comfort and the accuracy of test results.
“We’re optimistic that our technology, by providing functional details of the eye such as oxygen saturation and oxygen metabolism, may be able to play a critical role in early diagnosis and management of these blinding diseases,” said Parsin Haji Reza, director of the PhotoMedicine Labs at Waterloo.
The technology is also being applied by Haji Reza, a professor of systems design engineering and co-founder of startup company illumiSonics, to provide microscopic analyses of breast, gastroenterological, skin and other cancerous tissues, and to enable real-time imaging to guide surgeons during the removal of brain tumors. Researchers are working with several ophthalmologists and hope to start clinical trials within two years.
“PARS may move us beyond the current gold standard in ophthalmological imaging,” said Dr Richard Weinstein, an ophthalmologist and co-founder of the Ocular Health Centre.
“For the first time, not just in ophthalmology but in the entire medical field, diagnosis and treatment of disease could be made prior to structural change and functional loss.”
A paper on the research, Functional and structural ophthalmic imaging using noncontact multimodal photoacoustic remote sensing microscopy and optical coherence tomography, appears in the journal Scientific Reports.