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'Galahad' project to develop OCT for glaucoma diagnosis

12 Dec 2016

Multiple UK and Danish partners involved in €4M effort to develop high-res system based around supercontinuum source.

Gooch & Housego and NKT Photonics are among eight partners from the UK and Denmark who have just started work on a new €4 million European project to develop a high-resolution optical coherence tomography (OCT) system for glaucoma diagnosis.

The “GALAHAD” (short for Glaucoma - Advanced, Label-free High Resolution Automated OCT Diagnosis) effort, funded through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 innovation platform, officially kicked off this month and runs for three years.

High-res requirements
Current OCT systems offer axial resolution of 3-5 µm, and although the technique is increasingly used in a variety of ophthalmology and cardiovascular applications, glaucoma requires a higher performance.

So the aim of GALAHAD is to develop an OCT system based around a supercontinuum light source, improving the axial resolution of current imagers to the sub-micron level required to observe damage to the optic nerve head caused by the debilitating and irreversible eye disease.

According to the US-based Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 3 million Americans are thought to have glaucoma – with around 120,000 blinded by the disease, equivalent to approximately 10 per cent of all cases of blindness in the country. The World Health Organization rates glaucoma as the second-biggest cause of blindness globally.

Unfortunately, the relatively symptom-free nature of glaucoma, particularly in its early stages, is currently compounded by diagnostic systems that suffer from a high rate of both false negatives and false positives.

Screening typically involves intra-ocular pressure measurement combined with visual field tests, rather than any directly diagnostic tool.

Industry partners
Gooch & Housego, whose VP of business development Andrew Robertson is co-ordinating GALAHAD, says that the plan is to develop a multi-band, multi-modal system capable of capturing high-resolution, polarization-sensitive imagery.

Key elements include the use of a “revolutionary” low-cost supercontinuum light source, as well as new ultra-broadband photonic components required to exploit such a source.

While the project’s scope includes end-user evaluation of cell and animal models and tissue samples, automated algorithms will be developed, trained and tested so that non-expert operators will be able to perform glaucoma screening.

Aside from Gooch & Housego, the UK partners include Scotland-headquartered Optos – now owned by Japanese camera giant Nikon – as well as Vivid Components and clinical experts at the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Joining supercontinuum and fiber laser firm NKT are fellow Danes Ibsen Photonics, with support from the Technical University of Denmark. The only two GALAHAD partners from outside of the UK and Denmark are the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain, and the University of Münster in Germany.

GALAHAD is funded via the Photonics Key Enabling Technology (KET) Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) strand of Horizon 2020.

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