New Low-Cost Retinal Scanner Developed at Duke University Aims to Prevent Blindness Worldwide

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Image courtesy of Duke University.

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Duke University has recently announced that their team of biomedical engineers have developed a low-cost, portable optical coherence tomography (OCT) scanner that is aiming to bring the vision-saving technology to under-served regions throughout the United States and abroad.

The OCT scanner is 15x lighter and smaller than current commercial systems and is made from parts costing less than a tenth the retail price of commercial systems— without sacrificing imaging quality. In the first clinical trial, the results were astounding: the new scanner produced images of 120 retinas that were 95 percent as sharp as those taken by current commercial systems, which was sufficient for accurate clinical diagnosis.

“Once you have lost vision, it’s very difficult to get it back, so the key to preventing blindness is early detection,” said Adam Wax, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke. “Our goal is to make OCT drastically less expensive so more clinics can afford the devices, especially in global health settings.”

Traditional OCT machines can weigh more than 60 pounds, take up the size of an entire desk or cubicle, and can cost anywhere upward of $50,000, hitting the market cap at $120,000 per machine. This new OCT device weighs four pounds, is about 10x smaller, and is estimated to be sold for less than $15,000 USD.

“Right now OCT devices sit in their own room and require a PhD scientist to tweak them to get everything working just right,” said Wax. “Ours can just sit on a shelf in the office and be taken down, used and put back without problems. We’ve scanned people in a Starbucks with it.”

According to iData Research, the opthalmic market is being driven by sustained product improvement: a means of preserving product pricing levels that would otherwise be eroded by competition. Product improvement occurs in diagnostic accuracy, in the speed of an examination and in terms of combining multiple functions into a single device. This represents a continued increase in functionality and increased value for the end user. Many diagnostic device manufacturers have reported greater interest in equipment purchases from the diagnostic ophthalmic device market, and especially from optometrists who are interested in differentiating their practices and increasing patient flow efficiency.

“I have been very impressed by the quality of images from the low-cost device—it is absolutely comparable to our standard commercial machines,” said Ulrich. “It obviously lacks some bells and whistles of our $100k+ OCT scanners, but allows for accurate diagnosis of structural retinal disease as well as monitoring of treatment success. The setup is quick and easy with a small footprint, allowing the device to perform well in smaller satellite offices. I hope that the development of this low-cost OCT will improve patients’ access to OCT technology and contribute to saving sight in North Carolina as well as nationally and worldwide.“

“There’s a lot of interest from people who want to take OCT to new parts of the globe as well as to underserved populations right here in the U.S.,” said Wax. “With the growing number of cases of diabetic retinopathy in places like the United States, India and China, we hope we can save a lot of people’s sight by drastically increasing access to this technology.”


For Further Information

More on the ophthalmic market in the U.S can be found in a series of reports published by iData Research entitled the U.S. Market Report Suite for Ophthalmic Devices.

iData ResearchNew Low-Cost Retinal Scanner Developed at Duke University Aims to Prevent Blindness Worldwide

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