Ultrahigh Resolution Optical Coherence Tomography for Non-invasive Imaging of Outer Retina Degeneration in Rat Retina
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This project initiated with the aim for improving the ultrahigh resolution optical coherence tomography (UHR-OCT) system performance by considering the limitations to the axial OCT resolution for in vivo imaging of human and animal retina. To this end, a computational model was developed to simulate the effect of wavelength-dependant water absorption on the detected spectral shape of the broad-bandwidth light source used in UHR-OCT at 1060nm wavelength region, which effectively determines the axial OCT resolution in the retina. For experimental verification of the computational model, a custom built light source with a re-shaped spectrum (Superlum Inc.) was interfaced to the state-of-the-art UHR-OCT system. About 30% improvement of the axial OCT resolution in the rat retina and ~12% improvement of the axial OCT resolution in the human retina was achieved compared to the case of the almost Gaussian shaped spectrum of the standard, commercially available SLD. Although water absorption in the 1060nm spectral region strongly affects the sample beam, selecting a suitable light source with specific spectral shape can compensate for the undesired water absorption effect and thus result in significantly improved axial resolution in in vivo OCT retinal images. To demonstrate the advantages of the state-of-the-art OCT technology for non invasive retinal imaging, an established animal model of outer retina degeneration (sodium iodate (NaIO3)-induced retina degeneration) was employed for longitudinal monitoring of the degeneration and investigation of possible early and dynamic signs of damage undetected by other imaging modalities. The long-term (up to 3 months) and short-term (up to 12 hours) effect of sodium iodate toxicity on the layered structure of retina was monitored longitudinally and in vivo for the first time using OCT. An initial acute swelling of the retina, followed by progressive disruption and degeneration of outer retina was observed as a result of sodium iodate-induced damage. Changes in the thickness and optical reflectivity of individual retinal layers were extracted from the OCT images to quantify the changes occurring at different stages of the disease model. Results from this project present the theoretical and practical limits to the highest axial OCT resolution achievable for retina imaging in the 1060nm spectral range both in small animals and humans, and provided a framework for future development of novel light sources. Furthermore, UHR-OCT imaging was shown to be an effective and valuable modality for in vivo, non invasive investigation of retina degenerative disease.