New algorithm helps interpret vision loss

Researchers at the University of Melbourne have developed technology that can take a three-dimensional image of the inside of the human eye, revolutionising eye care.
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Photo: University of Melbourne

Researchers at the University of Melbourne have developed technology that can take a three-dimensional image of the inside of the human eye, revolutionising eye care.

These images are especially suited to detecting and monitoring two of the most common causes of progressive vision loss: glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Advances in computing power and LCD screen technology have both contributed to the adoption of digital imaging in eye care. However, the brain plays such a powerful role in generating our sense of sight that damage to the light-sensing retina does not necessarily result in a one-to-one corresponding loss of vision. That means retinal images, no matter how sophisticated, require interpretation.

To correct this diagnostic gap, Associate Professor Andrew Turpin at the University's School of Computing and Information Systems is working with German retinal imaging machines Manufacturer Heidelberg Engineering to develop a software fix that better translates 3-D retinal images into patient-relevant information.

Turpin’s approach was developed based on his study of the patterns that optic nerve axons create as they grow during foetal development, particularly the tendency of these axons to take the shortest path across the back of the retina to exit towards the brain.

“The relationship between damage to the retina and impacts on vision have been overly simplified,” he said.

“Without the software correction, the digital imaging technology may underestimate the rate with which glaucoma patients progressively lose vision.”

Heidelberg Engineering has since begun to incorporate Turpin’s biologically compatible software into its imaging machines, improving diagnostics and eye care for those affected by glaucoma.

[Photo: University of Melbourne]

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