NASA hopes to gain greater understanding of space flight associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS), having launched Heidelberg Engineering’s Spectralis OCT2 Module into space. The OCT2 module was launched on 21 May from Wallops Island, Virginia aboard the Antares 230 Cygnus CRS OA-9, also known as Orbital Sciences CRS Flight 9E. It will be installed on the International Space Station (ISS) late this year.
NASA retina specialist Dr. David Brown said the OCT2 module will provide information about changes to ocular structure that are critical for future long-term missions to Mars. Additionally, findings will have applicability to terrestrial research on both retina disease and glaucoma.
NASA’s researchers have used the Spectralis OCT to investigate the effects of a microgravity environment on vision since 2013. While the existing device continues to function normally on the ISS, a next-generation Spectralis with OCT2 module will optimise acquisition speed and capture more complex scans, while considering use of additional modalities such as OCT angiography, anterior segment imaging, ultra-widefield fundus imaging and multicolour.
the OCT2 module will provide information about changes to ocular structure that are critical for future long-term missions to Mars
“The Spectralis with OCT2 module uses patented TruTrack active eye tracking,” said Ali Tafreshi, Director of Clinical Research for Heidelberg Engineering. “The technology uses a second laser beam to actively track the eye during OCT scanning to effectively ‘freeze’ the retina and avoid motion artefacts. With this technology, a precise OCT image can be captured, even if the subject blinks or moves.”
Dr. Alex Huang, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles said, “Upgrading to the OCT2 module allows NASA to gain greater understanding of SANS, a condition astronauts commonly experience as a result of space flights. SANS can cause unilateral and bilateral optic disc edema. In association with the edema, globe flattening, choroidal and retinal folds, refractive error shifts, and nerve fibre layer infarcts have also been noted.”
This research is expanding the exploration of ocular pathology in space and on Earth. “The Spectralis OCT2 module will allow us to image deeper structures in the eye that are affected by long-term space flight such as the posterior optic nerve head anatomy and the choroidal blood supply to the retina.” said Dr. Brown, the retina specialist on the NASA SANS Research and Clinical Advisory Panel and a retinal surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. “Understanding changes in these structures will be critical for future long-term missions to Mars and have applicability to terrestrial research on both retina disease and glaucoma.”