University of Houston: College of Optometry Visit

This summer I am working at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest in Dallas. I have been a patient there for years, and it is a wonderful facility. This past weekend, I went with one of the Research Associates to Houston, TX to be tested at the University of Houston’s College of Optometry.

The University of Houston’s College of Optometry school is very respected and is one of the top schools, so I hear. I met with Dr. Jason Porter. They have been working on this amazing machine, called the AOSLO, or the Adaptive Optics Scanning Laser Opthalmoscope. There are a few others of these in the world, however each is modified a little bit differently to test certain things in certain ways. I will be the first patient in this study and the first individual with a disease to be tested with it. They have tested monkeys (unbelievable!.. this test takes a lot of staring and patients and being still) and they have tested individuals without disease. That is kind of neat, I think, to be the first patient with a disease to be tested on it. Below are a few pictures.

University of Houston, College of Optometry
This was the machine that I tested on all day, the AOSLO (Adaptive Optics Scanning Laser Opthalmoscope). It is about the size of a dining table with several lasers and mirrors and cameras. On the ceiling, there is a grid in which Dr. Porter points a laser for me to look at. The grid tells him what degree I am looking at.


This is a picture of me on the AOSLO. As you can see, I have the bite bar in my mouth to keep me steady. I am looking at the diamond shaped mirror, with a hole in the middle of it. I’m not sure where the cameras were positioned, but I looked in the center of that hole for a square, and at other times on the mirror and in between the hole for the laser pointer.

So what does this test do? You know when you blow up or magnify a picture a lot, the pixels and everything get really blurry and you low picture quality and resolution? This machine allows them to take pictures of my eyes, but zoom in so much that they can count each individual cone in my eye and they can also see where the rods are, but with this particular test they can’t count those. With RP, the cones and rods in my eye degenerate and die over time so if they can look at different parts of my eyes and see how many cones are in each part, that will help them see how the disease is progressing. They can then compare these results to the OCT and gain even more information. Recently, one of the Research Scientists at the Retina Foundation now says he wants them to do Nidek (a test that we have in our labs) to see the light sensitivity in each part of my eye. They will then compare this to all of the other tests.

We started a little before 9am, and with a few short breaks and a short break for lunch, we went until about 4:45pm. Before we started the testing, they made a bite mold. For the duration of the tests, I was to bite on the bite mold to keep me in place. I have been told that this is to keep you more still, compared to the traditional chin rest and forehead bar. I have also been told that they just haven’t made it to doing that yet. Both of these make sense to me. Then, I basically stayed there all day staring at either red square, different parts of the red square, or a red laserpoint. This allowed them to access different parts of my eyes to take pictures. They would only take pictures of very small sections of my eye at a time in order to be able to get good pictures, and that is why it took so long.

Hopefully, the results will come back soon and they will send me a few pictures to show you all. It was a 36 hour trip to Houston but I found it very worthwhile. I am honored to be able to do these tests and partake in the research for a cure for Retinitis Pigmentosa. I am not upset about having RP, but it does bring about its trials and tribulations. To help in finding a cure for it, is an honor.

Please let me know if you have any questions!


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Jessica N and Makiko

Jessica is a proud Texan. She graduated in 2014 with her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and is now employed. She is visually impaired and has a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Originally Jessica started blogging about everything from being diagnosed with the disease to where she is now, almost 9 years later. Then, Jessica went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and was blessed with Makiko, her new guide dog. Now, her blog "The Way Eye See The World" is about everything related to visual impairments, including guide dogs.

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