MIT researchers have developed a new type of laser based on Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) for taking high-resolution, 3D images of the retina. OCT uses light to obtain high-resolution, cross-sectional images of the eye to visualize subtle changes that occur in retinal disease.

Conventional OCT imaging typically yields a series of 2D cross-sectional images of the retina, which can be combined to form a 3D image of its volume. The system works by scanning light back and forth across the eye, measuring the echo time delay of reflected light along micrometer-scale lines that, row by row, build up high-resolution images.

Commercial OCT systems scan the eye at rates ranging from several hundred to several thousand lines per second. But a typical patient can only keep the eye still for about one second, limiting the amount of 3D data that can be acquired. Using the new laser, the researchers report retinal scans at speeds of up to 236,000 lines per second, a factor of 10 improvement over current OCT technology.

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