Eyes, fragile but crucial for human and almost all other animal life, pose difficult challenges, both for basic research and for effective solutions to the medical problems that such research investigates. Caltech professors Yu-Chong Tai and Hyuck Choo work with students and postdocs along with distinguished University of Southern California (USC) faculty and medical professionals on a range of these challenges, using multidisciplinary approaches spanning nanotechnology, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, physics, optics, photonics, and optomechanical engineering.
Meeting these challenges offers the potential for significant human rewards. While the most widely feared disease is cancer, as Tai notes, next on the list is blindness. And there, he says, the medical bar is high: "People usually don't make enough effort to maintain their eyes until it's too late. On the other hand, for the blind, having their vision even partially restored would represent a major advance."
New tools are changing the game—tools that have the potential to diagnose eye conditions, to restore vision to the blind, and to make state-of-the-art medical eye-examination technology available much more widely around the world, even in places with limited health systems. The Caltech and USC teams hope to deliver revolutionary new systems that may soon enable patients in remote areas around the world to be examined rapidly, without having to have their eyes chemically dilated and then be immobilized for many hours in clinics. If these new systems succeed, many more patients will receive full eye exams instead of brief looks.