Imaging Tiny Blood Vessels in the Eye for Markers of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Blood vessels that serve areas of the eye targeted by age-related macular degeneration may show changes before other signs of the disease. Changes in flow through these vessels could be a marker of the disease and its progression, but imaging these tiny vessels in real time would be costly, even if the tools were readily available.
To fill this gap, Yali Jia and her team are developing a specialized instrument to image this blood flow. With this cost-effective tool, they will establish the baseline patterns of flow in the healthy eye, characterizing them in unsurpassed detail. Using the tool to identify features that specifically undergo changes during progression of age-related macular degeneration, the team will characterize biomarkers of the process.
Dr. Jia expects the tool to allow prediction of development and progression of specific features of age-related macular degeneration, including geographic atrophy, which describes regions of degeneration in late-stage disease.
This work extends imaging beyond static anatomical views by following how blood vessels implicated in this disease change in function over time. Because changes in function may even precede changes in form, the imaging tool could facilitate even earlier detection of age-related macular degeneration. Early detection is crucial because the disease may be treatable early on, but not in its advanced stages.