Mount Sinai Researchers Use Breakthrough Technology to Further Understand Eye Damage from Eclipse
Research Could Lead to New Treatment for Solar Retinopathy
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
The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest integrated delivery system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai's vision is to produce the safest care, the highest quality, the highest satisfaction, the best access and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,480 primary and specialty care physicians; 11 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 410 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools", aligned with a U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" Hospital, No. 12 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding, and among the top 10 most innovative research institutions as ranked by the journal Nature in its Nature Innovation Index. This reflects a special level of excellence in education, clinical practice, and research. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of top U.S. hospitals; it is one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Orthopedics in the 2019-2020 "Best Hospitals" issue. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital also is ranked nationally in five out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 12th nationally for Ophthalmology and Mount Sinai South Nassau is ranked 35th nationally for Urology. Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, Mount Sinai West, and Mount Sinai South Nassau are ranked regionally.