Development of Laser Speckle Contrast Imaging as a Non-Invasive Diagnostic for Retinopathy of Prematurity

One in nine children born in the US, or half a million babies per year, are born prematurely; worldwide, the number is estimated at 15 million. Babies born particularly early or at low birth weight are at high risk of blindness from a disease called Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP. ROP is one of the top three causes of childhood blindness in the world. Ophthalmologists diagnose and make decisions about the initial treatment of ROP based on the subjective appearance of the retinal blood vessels. Hence, there is a critical unmet need for a more accurate method of screening infants for ROP. An ideal system for diagnosis of ROP would have the ability to quantify the vascular abnormalities in a standardized, reproducible, and objective manner. Semi-automated methods are available to quantify the vascular morphologic changes seen in ROP; however, these technologies lack the ability to image and quantify with speed and reliability using a non-invasive tool. Vasoptic Medical Inc. has developed a handheld retinal imager and software algorithms for early detection of a variety of vision-threatening conditions. The device utilizes dual imaging techniques—fundus photography and laser speckle contrast imaging (LSCI)—to capture quantitative anatomical and physiological information from the microvasculature of the retina without the need for exogenous dyes. Funds from this award will be used to adapt this technology for imaging the retinae of infants to image and quantify ROP and to validate its feasibility in an animal model. The results of this work will facilitate clinical evaluation and marketing of a novel medical device for diagnosis of a condition that impacts all aspects of a child’s development and shapes the adult they become.