Developing a New Imaging Method for Sensitive Detection of Early Glaucoma Damage

Xiangrun Huang, PhD
University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine (Miami, FL)
Year Awarded:
2018
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020
Disease:
Glaucoma
Award Amount:
$150,000
Grant Reference ID:
G2018148
Award Type:
Standard
Award Region:
US Southeastern

The Dr. Douglas H. Johnson Award recipient 

Xiangrun Huang, PhD

Spectral Contrast of Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer Reflectance: a New Means for Sensitive Detection of Glaucomatous Damage

Summary

Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness worldwide, damages a type of neuronal cells called retinal ganglion cells and their nerve fibers, known as axons, in the eye. Early detection of abnormities of the nerve fibers can permit early medical intervention to prevent vision loss in glaucomatous patients. The proposed research will develop a new optical imaging method that detects abnormities of the light reflected by the nerve fibers. The new approach can provide sensitive detection of the abnormities that occur at early stages of glaucoma. If successful, the developed methods can be readily translated to clinical use and provide clinicians with a new means to sensitively detect early glaucomatous damage, opening an early therapeutic window for the prevention of glaucomatous damage and vision loss.

Details

Currently the clinical diagnosis of glaucoma most often uses measurements of the thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer; and these measurements are unable to detect glaucomatous damage at early stages of the disease. Studies have shown that glaucoma causes change in the light reflected by the nerve fibers; in addition, this occurs prior to thickness change. The proposed research will develop a new optical imaging method that detects abnormalities of the light reflected by the nerve fibers of glaucomatous retinas. If successful, the developed methods can be readily translated to clinical use and provide clinicians with a new means to detect glaucoma at an early stage, opening a therapeutic window for the prevention of progressive and irreversible vision loss.

About the Researcher

My research goal is to provide sensitive assessment methods for early diagnosis and management of optic nerve neuropathic diseases, thus preventing irreversible vision loss. With a background in biomedical engineering, I have been working on research projects that aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the optical properties of ocular tissues, both in normal and glaucomatous eyes. By using in vitro preparation of retinas, many breakthrough findings, which are relevant to this proposal, are made through my research projects. For instance, we provide a comprehensive understanding of the directional reflectance of the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) and wavelength-dependence of RNFL reflectance in normal and glaucomatous retinas. We identify the axonal ultrastructure that contributes to the optical properties of the RNFL, and provide knowledge of how the ultrastructure responds to glaucomatous damage. We also find that glaucoma causes a decrease in RNFL reflectance and the decrease precedes thinning of the RNFL. Our most recent finding is that at early stages of glaucoma, the decrease in RNFL reflectance occurs earlier at short wavelengths than at long wavelengths. The findings led to this research project, which will translate the knowledge gained from in vitro experiments into in vivo measurement of RNFL reflectance at different wavelengths and develop a new imaging modality for sensitive detection of glaucomatous damage.

Personal Story

I am very thankful to the donors of the BrightFocus Foundation for their support of our research. Exactly 10 years ago, I got my very first grant from the BrightFocus Foundation and became an independent investigator in the field of glaucoma research. For the past 10 years, we made many breakthrough findings by using in vitro preparation of ocular tissues. With the in vitro studies, I am excited to translate the knowledge gained into clinical application for early diagnosis of glaucoma. At the beginning stage of this translational research, once again I have been fortunate in the generous support from the BrightFocus Foundation. With the grant support, I am sure that we can advance the imaging techniques for sensitive detection of glaucomatous damage and prevention of progressive vision loss.  

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