Meet WPI Researchers: Dr. Robert Zawadzki

My name is Robert Zawadzki. I’m associate professor of ophthalmology &
vision science at UC Davis and I’ve been trained as a biomedical engineer medical physicist. Originally, I was trying to develop optical coherence tomography to apply for retinal imaging. And, then throughout the years, I’ve been combining this with adaptive optics with scanning laser ophthalmoscopy both in clinical and basic science studies. And, what we’re doing right now we’re basically applying these in vivo imaging tools like a OCT and adaptive SLO to study mouse in vivo to look at their retinas. Optical coherence tomography, OCT, it is actually very good imaging technology right now. It works like ultrasound. So it acquires the B scans cross-sectional images of the tissue, but it using light rather than sound. So in measuring time-of-flight and based on that you can reconstruct the image in 2D or 3D if you acquire a raster scan data over the sample. So that’s that’s OCT. And as SLO, it’s basically a confocal microscopy applied for the eye. So most of the clinical retinal imaging systems that rely on confocal scanning microscopy they call themselves scanning laser ophthalmoscopy systems and adaptive optics is something that we used to improve resolution when we try to get the diffraction limited resolution of the eye. So what we do we are combining two imaging modalities like OCT and SLO and sometimes we enhance it with adaptive optics to get high resolution. The most, the highest possible in the eye. Though, actually both the OCT and SLO are limited by the numerical aperture of the objective you’re using. In our case this is the eye. So in the human eye the resolution image is down to (let’s say) 2µm and in mouse and probably closer to 1µm in the case you can correct aberrations using adaptive optics. So these techniques don’t work in improved resolution. They are just imaging modalities. Improved resolution is this adaptive optics. So this can be used to to basically bring you up to the diffraction limit. So we don’t use any any kind of super resolution microscopy techniques. This is still our good microscopy, however, we’re using adaptive optics to maintain no aberrations that preserve aberrations from being being in our system. So this way we have no aberration and can use… You can actually achieve diffraction resolution. So WPI is something that helped us in our basic science studies with animal work. So… In our lab, we are using mice as models of high diseases. In this case we basically have mice that have certain mutations in the genes that make their eyes develop human-like eye conditions. And, what we need, we basically make sure we want this mouse to be kind of comfortable and to be able to image them over time. We requires special tools to keep them in place. So one of the things that actually your company provided is the kind of mice face masks or mice bite bars. So in our imaging we are trying to keep animals under anesthesia and for that we’re using the inhalation anesthetics isofluorine, and your company provides a very well designed system that actually allow us to do. So basically this is like a system to keep mice under anesthesia. The another application, another product from you, is the product that we used to keep mice warm. It’s basically some kind of warmers and probably the last one I want to mention is that in one of the mouse models when we are trying to develop a tumor in the retina, we use very small, precise injection to deliver cells in the mouse eye, and we actually use the system from your company to do that, to allow us to inject very, very small volumes, in the range of microliters. So, that’s the thing, that there’s many possible goals for us So at the moment for me is to first maintain the research we are doing right now. To make it interesting and attractive for others to allow us to get funding. The larger goal is to really find out what kind of bigger applications worked, what we do to really make an impact in the real life. So, what we specifically, what we are studying is the imaging tools I was mentioning earlier. We’re trying to, even though those systems exist, we’re trying to improve them, making better processing steps, make better acquisition methods. So, one one goal is basically to make some of the this really widespread to basically be applied in everyday clinical work. The other goal is maybe to also help develop a new therapy for eye diseases. So we are involved with many studies that test different drugs or different types of treatments. Again, if what we do would allowed us to be again commercialized and then use in the everyday clinical work will be great. So for us right now the kind of the right path to the consolidation would be to try to create some kind of startup or to engage with an existing company to convince them that they should use our algorithms or our tools to improve their their images. I’ll give you an example of the system of the thing that we were recently trying to promote. This is called temporal speckle averaging. OCT, so we know in OCT the images are really… The images of the optical tissue have a really high noise. It’s called speckle that really prevent doctors or our users from seeing the structures with the really ultimate resolution that is available. And, what we developed, we developed a framework that allows us to to modulate speckle or to wait long enough to first pedal to remodulate themselves. And then to average them efficiently to remove that high contrast improve image quality. And, at the moment, we’re trying to get some companies interested in this but we think that ultimate problem is that there’s no easy way to actually modulate speckle using cheap techniques. So right now we’re also talking to another laboratory who develops adaptive lenses that can actually be used to modulate wavelength and modulate speckles. So we hope that after we combine our method with the product that would be then implemented in the clinical systems, actually could be implemented by the companies. So right now that would be the one of the applications that we hope will be wider spread. Basically this temporal speckle averaging in opthalmology.

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