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Better Images of the Trabecular Meshwork

■ Using methods originally developed by astronomers to view stars more clearly through Earth’s atmosphere, optometry researchers at Indiana University have taken the first undistorted microscopic images of the trabecular meshwork. The ability to clearly view this structure could help improve treatment for glaucoma. The work was reported in the Journal of Translational Visual Science and Technology.

“Normally, clear fluid circulates inside the eye to supply nutrition and keep it ‘inflated’ to its normal shape,” said Dr. Brett King, chief of advanced ocular care services and associate clinical professor at the Indiana University School of Optometry, co-author of the study, in a news release. “Alterations of the trabecular meshwork, which allows fluid to drain, elevates pressure in the eye, leading to glaucoma. The problem is the meshwork can only be seen poorly with the normal instruments in your doctor’s office, due to its location where the iris inserts into the wall of the eye, as well as the near-total reflection that occurs when looking through the cornea.”

The result of this low visibility is a lack of understanding about why age appears to cause the trabecular meshwork to function poorly. It also makes it difficult to study why certain glaucoma treatments that target the trabecular meshwork, such as laser therapies or invasive surgical procedures, fail while others succeed.

To view the trabecular meshwork, Indiana University researchers modified an existing ophthalmic laser microscope with a programmable mirror able to deform in real time to correct for the eye’s imperfections. The technology, called “adaptive optics,” is accurate within 10 millionths of a millimeter, which is precise enough to visualize single cells or measure blood flow inside the retina.