Historic first images of rod photoreceptors in the living human eye

June 9, 2011
Rod Images

The fovea (left) are the smallest cones at the center of the retina. The large bright dots (right) are cones, and the surrounding smaller spots are rods (credit: University of Rochester/Biomedical Optics Express)

The eye’s light-sensing cells known as rods have been clearly and directly imaged in the living eye for the first time, researchers from University of Rochester, Marquette University, and the Medical College of Wisconsin have reported.

Using adaptive optics (AO), the same technology astronomers use to study stars and galaxies, the researchers were able to see through the murky distortion of the outer eye, revealing the eye’s cellular structure with unprecedented detail. The researchers were able to push the device’s resolution to its optical limits of nearly 2 microns, or the approximate diameter of a single rod in the human eye.

“Imaging contiguous rod mosaics will allow us to study the impact of a whole new class of blinding disorders on the retina,” comments Steve Burns (a professor at Indiana University not involved in the research). ”Since many of the eye diseases most amenable to intervention affect the rods, this should become a major tool for determining what treatments work best for those disorders.”

Ref.: Alfredo Dubra, et al., Noninvasive imaging of the human rod photoreceptor mosaic using a confocal adaptive optics scanning ophthalmoscope, Biomedical Optics Express, 2011; 2 (7): 1864 [DOI: 10.1364/BOE.2.001864]

Ref.: Alfredo Dubra, Yusufu Sulai, Reflective afocal broadband adaptive optics scanning ophthalmoscope, Biomedical Optics Express, 2011; 2 (6): 1757 [DOI: 10.1364/BOE.2.001757]