Researchers have developed a new method to perform optoretinography, an imaging technique that measures light-induced functional activity in the eye’s retina. The novel technique could help accelerate the development of new treatments for eye diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Their findings are published in the journal Optica in an article titled, “Velocity-based optoretinography for clinical applications.”

“Optoretinography (ORG) is an emerging tool for testing neural function in the retina,” wrote the researchers. “Unlike existing methods, it is noninvasive and objective, and provides information about retinal structure and function at once. As such, it has great potential to transform ophthalmic care and clinical trials of novel therapeutics designed to restore or preserve visual function. Recent efforts have demonstrated the feasibility of ORG using state-of-the-art optical coherence tomography systems. These methods measure the stimulus-evoked movement of subcellular features in the retina, using the phase of reflected light to monitor their positions. Here we present an alternative approach that monitors the velocity of these features instead.”

“Optoretinography has typically used very costly equipment that required multiple experts to operate while also producing enormous data volumes requiring extensive computational resources,” said research team leader Ravi Jonnal, PhD, from the University of California, Davis. “We devised a way to do it cheaper and quicker.”

“Although velocity-based optoretinography could potentially provide clinicians with more accurate and earlier information about functional losses in the retina, its first real impact is more likely to be in expediting clinical trials for new treatments of retinal diseases,” said Jonnal, who performed some of the first optoretinography measurements as a doctoral student in Don Miller’s lab at Indiana University. “If we can detect whether retinal function is getting better or worse faster than with traditional tests such as eye charts, it will greatly accelerate the development of treatments.”

The researchers developed a new OCT camera that allows a single operator to gather images from more locations in the retina. They demonstrated their new technique by using it to collect measurements from three healthy volunteers. The researchers report they were able to acquire data from each patient in just ten minutes and have that data processed and results available within two to three minutes.

The researchers are looking to apply the new optoretinography approach to animal models of retinal disease next.