A group of U.S. scientists have created ultra-detailed 3-D images of the eyes of more than 2,000 people from different ethnic groups, 400 of whom have age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
They hope that they will pave the way for new diagnostic software that will help get a better look at the abnormalities that cause this condition, and prove useful for developing new treatments.
The team was led by James Fujimoto at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and collaborators Jay Duker of the Tufts University School of Medicine, and Joel Schuman of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
AMD is a condition in which the macula, the region of highest visual acuity in the retina, stops functioning properly. No treatment currently exists for dry AMD, and those available for the wet form can only slow, not stop, vision loss.
The researchers say that publishing the electronic data in 3-D images may make it available to the image processing community to develop computer programs that can quickly and automatically detect the details and severity of the disease.
Fujimoto admits that developing such a program will be difficult because of the sheer quantity of data contained in each data set.
He, however, insists that this data is important because quantitative measurements can be used to track disease progression, and help establish correlations between the severity of vision loss and changes in the architecture of the eye.
A report on the research team's work has been published in the journal Optics Express.