New U of A laser technology shows promise to treat leading causes of blindness
By SCOTT LINGLEY
A platform that combines cutting-edge diagnostic tools and ultra-fast laser technology developed at the University of Alberta could usher in a new era of non-invasive medical interventions for eye diseases.
Nir Katchinskiy, a U of A research associate who just completed his PhD in electrical engineering, recently launched a startup called PulseMedica to usher femtosecond lasers—which emit optical pulses lasting only one-quadrillionth of a second each—through testing and approval stages.
He said the speed and accuracy afforded by the lasers make them ideal for treating eye diseases ranging from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma to retinoblastoma, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.
“People have tried to use lasers to treat various conditions like AMD, but the problem is all the lasers that have been developed previously caused more damage than help to the patient,” said Katchinskiy.
He said femtosecond lasers, which are able to make holes of a micrometre or less, are more precise than other lasers.
“The work we do here is called nanosurgery,” added U of A engineering professor Abdul Elezzabi, who supervised Katchinskiy’s research. “We deliver high-power laser pulses on a nano scale. So we can do surgery on a single cell or a single part of a cell without impacting the adjacent cells.”
Treating eye diseases
AMD damages the retina of the eye and is the leading cause of blindness globally. Glaucoma is characterized by an increase of pressure within the eye that damages the optic nerve, eventually leading to blindness. It’s projected that by 2020, more than 196 million people will be affected by AMD and 76 million people will be affected by glaucoma.The platform Katchinskiy is developing combines femtosecond lasers with optical coherence tomography, a technology for evaluating conditions of the retina, and scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, a method for creating diagnostic images of the retina that enables a high degree of spatial sensitivity……