LASIK eye surgery – a laser reshaping of the cornea to improve vision - is one of the most popular elective surgeries in the United States, and a University of Houston professor of biomedical engineering intends to improve upon it by giving surgeons more information about the cornea before they begin.
Specifically, Kirill Larin wants to provide measurement of corneal elasticity, a key component of visual acuity. Eye surgeons currently do not have a reliable method to perform a quantitative measurement of corneal elasticity in patients before the procedure.
“We will develop a novel method for the imaging and assessment of corneal elastic properties that could potentially be used for routine clinical diagnostics of different corneal diseases and treatment,” said Larin, who is using a $1.6 million continuation grant from the National Eye Institute to improve current Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to provide ultrafast 3D clinical imaging. The technology will combine Brillouin microscopy with Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Optical Coherence Elastography (OCE) – creating the new BOE.
The new BOE technology uses highly localized air pressure stimulation.
“We’re going to use an air puff that will produce very small waves on the surface of the eye. The patient will not feel them, but we will be able to detect them. The speed of the waves will tell us about the elasticity of the cornea,” said Larin. Using OCT, he will reconstruct volumetric biomechanical properties of the cornea.
Larin already developed a first prototype of the combined instrument, demonstrated its capability to measure biomechanical properties of the cornea in vitro and in vivo, and has developed analytical models to extract biomechanical properties. The new grant, he said, will accelerate transition of this technology into clinics, influence the selection and application of corneal surgical treatments and will help understand the structural consequences of corneal disease and wound healing.
Larin’s previous work made fundamental advances in the understanding of corneal biomechanics, which influence clinical interpretation of diagnostic tests, e.g. measurement of intraocular pressure, and have been implicated as important factors in the development of glaucoma.
“Our technology will optimize the delivery of health care to the eye and deliver an early diagnosis for many eye conditions.”
Collaborating on the project with Larin are Michael Twa, dean of the UH College of Optometry and Salavat Aglyamov, research assistant professor of mechanical engineering.