The overall goal of this STTR project is to commercialize a novel optical eye scanner device capable of measuring the biomechanical properties of tissues via Brillouin light scattering. The Brillouin technology invented in the co-PI?s lab has shown broad potential for improving the diagnosis and treatment of vision disorders. Clinical data obtained with current laboratory systems revealed corneal stiffness changes caused by keratoconus, collagen crosslinking and keratectomy. For commercialization of this promising technology, this fast-track project streamlines development through innovative engineering that focuses on miniaturization, cost lowering and manufacturing compatibility, in close collaboration between the inventor?s lab and a spin-off startup that is led by an experienced team in the ophthalmology device industry. Phase-I will develop a frequency-stabilized laser source with reduced spontaneous emission noise (Aim I). Phase-II will take this innovation to develop and test a tabletop alpha prototype (Aim II-1) and then build portable beta prototypes (Aim II-2). The functionality, reliability and operability of the prototypes will be validated in clinical pilot trials in an eye hospital for variety of clinical cases including keratoconus cases, pre- and post- refractive surgery cases, and pre- and post- collagen crosslinking cases. The successful completion of this project will have transferred Brillouin microscopy from academia to the medical device industry, and will accelerate the translation of tissue biomechanical assessments into clinical practice. Ultimately, the successful commercialization of in vivo Brillouin imaging will have a high impact on eye healthcare by improving the diagnosis, intervention and surgical treatment of various vision problems.
This proposal is relevant to public health because it will accelerate the commercialization of novel diagnostic devices to identify progressive keratoconus and risk of post-LASIK ectasia more accurately than currently possible and allow patients to receive timely optimized treatments. Unlike current methods for detection of keratoconus, the proposed technique will directly measure biomechanical properties of corneal stroma before the disease manifests itself via corneal shape distortion. Furthermore, the new instrument will improve the outcome of collagen crosslinking and astigmatic keratotomy and may help development of interventional prevention of myopia and cataract. Having spatially-resolved biomechanical measurements of the cornea may allow customization for treatment options designed to strengthen the tissue. Therefore, the proposed research is relevant to the NIH?s mission of fostering innovative research strategies to increase the nation?s ability to improve the treatment of disease.