MRI of the Human Retina

  • Duong, Timothy Q (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Diabetic retinopathy (DR), a complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness
in working-age adults, is a retinal disease whose prolonged course typically begins years prior
to diagnosis. DR is presently diagnosed by clinical findings on examination; by the time these
are visible, significant irreversible damage to the retina has already occurred for most patients.
Insufficient oxygen delivery and hypoxia associated with the energy-demanding photoreceptors
has been implicated in the early stage of the disease. Such oxygen delivery-utilization mismatch
ultimately precipitates late stage neovascularization and vision loss. We hypothesize that the
mismatch in oxygen delivery-utilization in the retina results in abnormal blood flow and tissue
oxygenation in the early stage of DR before vision loss. Currently, there are no existing non-
invasive imaging technologies available to detect these early changes, when intervention could
be most effective. Imaging technologies that can detect early changes in blood flow and
oxygenation could accelerate early detection of DR, offer focused screening of population at
risk, and enable longitudinal treatment monitoring. Early detection has the potential to prevent
blindness and improve treatment outcomes, including quality of life. Most existing retinal imaging techniques lack depth-resolved information (except optical
coherence tomography for anatomical imaging) and rely on optical transparency which is
frequently hampered by media opacity (e.g., cataracts and vitreous hemorrhages). In contrast,
MRI can provide anatomical, physiological, and functional data with lamina-specific depth
resolution. Its application to the thin retina, however, has been challenging. Our group
pioneered multi-parametric, layer-specific retinal MRI in animals and has demonstrated some
unique advantages. This proposal aims to take the first step to translate this innovative
approach to study the human retina. Our central hypothesis is that: i) high-resolution MRI can
provide anatomical, physiological, and functional images of the human retina with laminar
resolution, and ii) functional and physiological changes in DR patients will occur before
structural abnormalities can be detected.
Effective start/end date1/1/1412/31/18


  • National Institutes of Health: $299,000.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $366,275.00


  • Medicine(all)


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