Public Release: 

Sight-saving imaging technology secures funding

University of Liverpool


IMAGE: This is an image of comparative OTC scans. view more 

Credit: Department of Eye and Vision Science, University of Liverpool.

Staff at the University of Liverpool's Department of Eye & Vision Science have been awarded £1.3 million by the National Institute for Health Research's (NIHR) Intervention for Innovation (i4i) programme to develop a state-of-the-art Ultra-Sensitive Optical Coherence Tomography (Ultra-OCT) system.

The Ultra-OCT is intended to revolutionise the way corneal eye conditions are detected, diagnosed and managed.

The best commercially available OCT machines have a resolution of no more than 4 micrometres, but the Liverpool team's system has a far superior resolution of 2 micrometres and can scan 1,000 times faster.

This means that doctors using the Ultra-OCT will be presented with a non-invasive, safe, cross-sectional view of a cornea - a virtual biopsy - while patients will benefit from earlier disease detection, more accurate monitoring of their eyes and personalised management of their conditions.

The award will fund the development of a clinical prototype, produced in collaboration with colleagues in the University's Electrical Engineering & Electronics department. It will then be tested with patients at St Paul's Eye Unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, while The Centre for Health Economics & Medicines Evaluation (CHEME) at Bangor University will assess its cost effectiveness for possible future NHS use.

The NIHR has previously funded a lab-based prototype of the system, which with its fast, precise and accurate automated analysis tools performed exceptionally well when scanning donated human eye tissue. The multi-disciplinary team, led by Dr Yalin Zheng, is confident that the clinical prototype will do the same.

Dr Zheng said: "OCTs have already transformed the way we diagnose and treat eye conditions, but our aim is to develop a system which will take that to the next level. By adopting a different approach to other systems on the market we are developing an OCT scanner which offers superior scanning technology and wide applicability, while also being commercially viable."


Notes for editors

The Department of Eye & Vision Science is part of the Institute of Ageing & Chronic Disease at the University of Liverpool. The department is working to transform understanding of the eye and the process of 'seeing'. Scientists, engineers and clinicians work from cornea to cortex, and from bench to bedside, to uncover how basic mechanisms, processes and structures relate to vision. This work is having life-changing results for patients of all ages right across the globe.

The University of Liverpool is one of the UK's leading research institutions with an annual turnover of £480 million, including £102 million for research. Visit or follow us on twitter at:

St Paul's Eye Unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital provides a world renowned ophthalmic research and clinical service not only to the local community of Liverpool but also to regional, national and international referrals. The internationally recognised team of specialist ophthalmologists has expertise in a wide variety of eye conditions including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, keratoconus, age related macular degeneration and ocular oncology, and are engaged in ground breaking clinical research in partnership with the University of Liverpool.

The Centre for Health Economics & Medicines Evaluation (CHEME) at Bangor University is one of the leading health economics centres in the UK. The Centre is active across a range of health economic and medicines evaluation research activities. CHEME contributed to the University's highest ranked unit of assessment in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, with 95% of outputs being world leading and internationally excellent. CHEME has a track record in publishing economic studies on intervention to prevent and manage sight loss. Visit or follow us on twitter at:

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research. Established by the Department of Health, the NIHR:

  • funds high quality research to improve health
  • trains and supports health researchers
  • provides world-class research facilities
  • works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all
  • involves patients and the public at every step
For further information, visit the NIHR website.

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