NEWS 2013

AOIP builds adaptive optics scanning ophthalmoscope at University College London

The UCL research program broadens with the inclusion of adaptive optics retinal imaging


As part of an ongoing collaboration between the Medical College of Wisconsin, University College London (UCL) and Moorfields Eye Hospital (MEH), Advanced Ocular Imaging Program (AOIP) members traveled to London in May 2013 to install an adaptive optics scanning light ophthalmoscope (AOSLO).

Joe, Mike and Alf at UCL

Pictured from left to right, Joseph Carroll, PhD, Michel Michaelides, MD, and Alfredo Dubra, PhD | May 2013 in London

Based on the same novel optical designs developed previously by Alfredo Dubra, PhD, the new UCL AOSLO allows acquisition of the most detailed images to date of the living human retina. The addition of new instrumentation to this scientific collaboration opens exciting new avenues of research, merging the extensive genetically characterized patient base present at Moorfields Eye Hospital with the technological innovations developed within the AOIP.

Advanced imaging brings new research opportunities

Adaptive optics, in combination with other advanced ophthalmic imaging tools such as optical coherence tomography, provides the ability to image some of the smallest structures in the eye.  The revealing images enable characterization of eye conditions such as glaucoma, achromatopsia, retinitis pigmentosa and ocular albinism in great detail.  Clearer understanding of disease processes at the cellular level should open new avenues for clinical therapies.

A truly collaborative effort

On-site installation of the AOSLO took ten days, and hundreds of hours of preparation in the AOIP labs prior to arriving in London. The time lapse video below shows the AOSLO being assembled in London between May 13th and 23rd, 2013.  Starring in the video are AOIP members Joseph Carroll, PhD,  Alfredo Dubra, PhD, and Yusufu Sulai along with UCL collaborators Michel Michaelides, MD, Jonathan Aboshiha, MD, Richard Lee, MD, and Chris Dainty, PhD. The new AOSLO is managed by Adam Dubis, PhD, who received his PhD from MCW in 2011.

Michel Michaelides, MD, Clinical Senior Lecturer, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology - Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital, witnessed the construction of the new system and commented that, “Joe [Carroll] and Alf's [Dubra] visit was exemplary in all aspects - including demonstrating excellence in teamwork, organization, hard work and basically doing whatever it took to custom build a state-of-the-art AOSLO,” said Michaelides. “The first images were spectacular, beginning a new era of advanced retinal imaging at UCL/MEH.”

“The recent installation and commissioning of an AOSLO at Moorfields is a landmark event, bringing us at last towards the cutting edge of high-resolution ocular imaging technology,” said Phil Luthert, Professor and Director of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.


The AOSLO installed at UCL is identical to those housed at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The system is able to resolve individual rod and cone photoreceptors in the living human retina. For more about the innovative design of the system see our 2011 news story.

“The ability to image individual cells, from the light sensitive cells we see with, to the changing blood vessel and inflammatory cells, opens a whole new window on how we can understand disease in the eye and body,” said Sir Peng T Khaw MD PhD, Professor and Director National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Centre Moorfields and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. “This will allow us to more rapidly develop the next generation of treatments including bionic implants, stem cell and gene therapy. This is a truly exciting international collaboration bringing science fiction into the real world.”

cone photoreceptor mosaic

First image of the cone mosaic acquired with the new UCL AOSLO. Each circle is an individual cone photoreceptor - these cells initiate the process of seeing and can be damaged due to a variety of genetic disorders.


One of the exciting research avenues being pursued is using this imaging tool to examine individuals with inherited retinal degenerations who are enrolled in the various clinical trials at UCL/MEH.  The high-resolution images offer the potential to assess the therapeutic potential of a given retina as well as monitor the effect of treatments administered to these patients.


This project was primarily funded through a collaborative grant from the Wellcome Trust. Funds from other sources (Foundation Fighting Blindness, National Institutes of Health, Fight for Sight, Moorfields Eye Hospital Special Trustees, Moorfields Eye Charity, Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Center at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and Retinitis Pigmentosa Fighting Blindness) will be used to operate the new system and image hundreds of patients with inherited retinal degeneration over the coming months.

Dale K. Heuer, MD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Ophthalmology, Director, Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Eye Institute, agrees that this collaboration has the potential for breakthrough results. “The Medical College of Wisconsin is excited and proud to partner with University College London/Moorfields Eye Hospital which, in addition to being the oldest eye hospital, is one of the largest centers of ophthalmic treatment, teaching, and research in the world,” said Heuer. “The collaborative relationship between the pioneering work being done in the AOIP and the outstanding research and patient care at UCL and MEH should generate a wealth of data that we expect will have a profound impact on the treatment of eye diseases.”

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