Photo courtesy of SFU News

By: Nathaniel Tok

SFU engineer develops laser scanner to study eye disease and vision loss

SFU engineering scientist Marinko Sarunic has developed a non-invasive high-resolution retinal imaging scanner that could help in eye disease diagnosis before vision loss occurs. The laser scanner can create high-resolution 3D cross-section images of the retina including photoreceptors and fine capillaries.

While current scanners are only able to assess and diagnose the cause of dead retinal cells after vision is already lost, Sarunic’s scanner allows ophthalmologists and optometrists to detect damage and changes to photoreceptors. Earlier damage detection can facilitate earlier diagnosis, which in turn can decrease the likelihood of vision loss by allowing preventative measures to take place.

The scanner provides an alternative to more invasive testing procedures which involve the use of dye injections. Another key feature of the scanner is its convenient shoebox size compared to the billiard table size of other scanners. Ophthalmologists at Vancouver General Hospital spent eight months testing the scanner last year.

Sarunic, who is now working on another version of the scanner for image-guided operations, joined SFU in 2006 to conduct research that could help advance the field of technology to aid human health.


Decrease in mortality rates observed in Vancouver’s HIV population that injects drugs

A study led by Kanna Hayashi, an associate professor at SFU and researcher in the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, has shown a significant drop in mortality among people with HIV who inject drugs in Vancouver over the last 20 years.

The study aimed to look at the results of recent attempts to improve access to HIV treatment. The data in the study shows that the decline in mortality co-occurred with an increase in community “seek-and-treat” interventions among the HIV population. Researchers observed significant decreases in both “all-cause” and HIV-related mortality rates among both men and women from 2010 onwards.

The decrease in mortality was only found among patients in whom the virus was suppressed. Consequently, researchers highlighted that helping people who inject drugs (PWID) maintain their viral loads at “undetectable levels” is important to further reduce mortality rates. Data for the study was gathered from the ACCESS trials, a cohort study of PWID with HIV in Vancouver along with data from the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency.