Light Years Ahead

What if there was an imaging technique that could detect retinal disease processes before any structural damage had even occurred?

By Roisin McGuigan

Imaging modalities like OCT, and AO-SLO have transformed our ability to stage and diagnose retinal disease. But in many respects it’s only showing you the pathologic structural changes that occur after the damage has been done. Take the example of diabetic retinopathy. By the time a patient begins to notice problems with their vision, they’ve lost a significant portion of it – and a hefty number of cells in the retina too. Much like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma, interventions at this point are almost palliative: current therapies try to slow the diseases progression, but they can’t replace what’s lost.

But what if you could detect disease processes before permanent damage has happened? At a point where early, disease-altering interventions – some as simple as lifestyle changes – could be made? Sound unrealistic? Apparently not. It seems there is a way - by using mitochondrial function as a marker of retinal health.