Skip to content

Seeing the eye like never before

NEI-funded researchers zoom in on the retina and watch it work at the cellular level
September 9, 2020
Cut into 3D volume displaying flat pattern of round cells

High-resolution three dimensional view of the human retina acquired with adaptive optics line-scan optical coherence tomography showing the different layers and individual cone photoreceptors as white circular spots. Credit: Ramkumar Sabesan

Scientists funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI) detected minute, nanometer-scale changes in response to light hitting photoreceptors in a living eye. The findings may lead to new strategies for detecting eye diseases earlier, when treatments are likely to be more effective. The report appears today in Science Advances.

The research, led by Ramkumar Sabesan, Ph.D., Department of Ophthalmology, University of Washington School of Medicine, used high-speed phase-resolved optical coherence tomography, which provided resolution of the retina at the cellular level. Applying the technology, the researchers observed slight changes in shape as cone photoreceptors were exposed to light. This electromechanical deformation in individual photoreceptors is a phenomenon associated with phototransduction, the process by which light is translated into an electrical signal sent from the eye to the brain to produce vision.

The work was funded by the Audacious Goals Initiative for Regenerative Medicine, an effort by NEI to push the boundaries of vision science and restore vision through regeneration of the retina.