Live Retinal Cell Imaging now possible through a new technique

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Live neurons, epithelial cells, blood vessels within the retina will now be revealed thanks to a retinal imaging technique developed by the researchers at the National Eye Institute in the U.S. The interaction in the outer region of retina amongst the complex units of cells can be viewed by the technique that entails combining adaptive optics and angiography.

The objectives behind developing this technique was to effectively diagnos and monitor the multiple diseases that this retinal region is involved in, such as Alzheimer’s disease, age- related macular degeneration (AMD), atherosclerosis and so on.

Conventional technologies lack in showing details that can be studied by watching live cell interactions which is the best way to study diseases according to  Johnny Tam, a researcher part of the study.

In order to monitor the progression of a disease over time or the exact characteristics of living tissue, studying post- mortem tissue samples and tissue biopsies cannot suffice. Furthermore, light becomes distorted once it passes through the retina making it impossible to monitor the living cells in the retina through a non- invasive method.

In order to correct these light distortions, the researchers have employed adaptive optics. Popularly used in space telescopes, this technique combined with angiography will help inject a dye into the blood and then capture the image of the blood vessels within the retina through a camera providing high resolution images of the retina for observation in real time.

Recently, while testing this imaging technique in a patient with retinitis pigmentosa it was found that he had intact retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE cells) and capillaries even though the photoreceptors had died in specific regions of the retina.

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