Molecular Imaging for Early Detection of Eye New Blood Vessels
The development of new blood vessels (neovascularization) plays a critical role in innumerable diseases causing severe vision loss and blindness, including macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Wet macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the developed world and will affect 196 million people by 2020. Neovascularization results in the majority of vision loss with macular degeneration. While effective treatments exist, early detection is critical to optimize visual outcomes with treatment. Current imaging is unable to visualize early changes.
We have developed a multimodal imaging system that can perform photoacoustic microscopy, optical coherence tomography, and fluorescence microscopy on the eye to visualize blood vessels with high resolution (4 microns). We would like to build a team with engineering and nanoparticle fabrication expertise to synthesize organic nanoparticles that can serve as multimodal contrast agent and selectively target molecular changes taking place in early neovascularization such as integrins and could then be translated soon to humans. We would then like to perform imaging in live models of neovascularization to confirm that these particles can be visualized. Immunohistochemistry will be utilized to confirm the multimodal molecular imaging findings. This would allow for early detection of wet macular degeneration and would revolutionize our treatment of patients with eye vascular diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetes.