• Press Release

Mount Sinai Researchers Use Breakthrough Technology to Further Understand Eye Damage from Eclipse

Research Could Lead to New Treatment for Solar Retinopathy

  • New York, NY
  • (December 07, 2017)

In a first-of-its-kind study, Mount Sinai researchers are using adaptive optics (AO) to analyze retinal eye damage from the August solar eclipse on a cellular level. The research could help doctors develop a deeper understanding of this rare condition, called solar retinopathy, which has no currently accepted treatment.

Adaptive optics is a sophisticated technology that allows clinicians to examine microscopic structures of the eye in living patients with extreme detail in real time. Before the development of AO, researchers could only see this level of detail on glass slides with a microscope.

A team of scientists from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai used this state-of-the-art imaging technology to get a precise view of how much individual cellular damage resulted from the solar eclipse, something that has never been done before. The findings were published in the December 7 online issue of JAMA Ophthalmology.

“We have never seen the cellular damage from an eclipse because this event rarely happens and we haven’t had this type of advanced technology to examine solar retinopathy until recently,” said lead investigator Avnish Deobhakta, MD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “NYEE is one of the few sites in North America with access to this technology, and using this to get an exact look at  this retinal damage on such a precise level will help clinicians better understand the condition.”

Mount Sinai investigators used AO imaging on a patient who looked at the sun during the eclipse for 21 seconds without protective eyewear. Four hours later, the patient developed blurry distortion in both eyes and could only see the color black. NYEE specialists examined her three days later and found she had burned a hole in her retinas and diagnosed her with solar retinopathy and photochemical burns.

Using this technology, researchers obtained high-resolution images of the damaged photoreceptors, which may provide a deeper understanding of the condition that could one day lead to the development of treatments.  

“It’s exciting to be able to see such a correlation between the patient’s symptoms and the photoreceptor injury on a cellular level.  Hopefully this research allows us to potentially develop future therapies for solar retinopathy and other forms of photic injury to the retina,” said Chris Wu, MD, a resident physician at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai. “This study can prepare doctors and patients for the next eclipse in 2024, and make them more informed of the risks of directly viewing the sun without protective eyewear.”


About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with 48,000 employees working across eight hospitals, more than 400 outpatient practices, more than 600 research and clinical labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time—discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 9,000 primary and specialty care physicians and 11 free-standing joint-venture centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida. Hospitals within the System are consistently ranked by Newsweek’s® “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals, Best in State Hospitals, World Best Hospitals and Best Specialty Hospitals” and by U.S. News & World Report's® “Best Hospitals” and “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The Mount Sinai Hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report® “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll for 2023-2024.

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