Dean Hainsworth, MD and Raghuraman Kannan, PhD

Principal Investigators

Raghuraman Kannan, PhD

Department of Bioengineering

Dean Hainsworth, MD

Department of Ophthalmology

Raghuraman Kannan, PhD, (left)
and Dean Hainsworth, MD

DR sensor for early detection of diabetic retinopathy

One of the major micro-angiopathic eye complications that arises in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic patients is diabetic retinopathy (DR). It is the leading cause of blindness in adults, with 4.2 million cases reported in the U.S. alone. Of those, 665,000 are vision threatening. Every year, DR results in approximately 24,000 new cases of blindness in adults ages 25 to 74. At any stage of the disease, macular edema can cause severe damage to vision and at the most advanced stage, permanent vision loss can occur. Even though the complications are overwhelming, patients in advanced stages of DR are typically asymptomatic. As no cure exists for DR, vision loss is preventable only by timely detection and treatment. Screening for DR is currently performed by ophthalmologists and optometrists during annual eye exams. Unfortunately, these eye exams are expensive and time-consuming, and annual checkups alone are not sufficient for early detection of DR. In fact, patients can lose up to 60 percent of their vision in between annual checkups. Diabetic patients who do not have regular eye exams are at even greater risks of preventable vision loss.

In order to meet the need for a DR screening test that is inexpensive and suitable for use in primary care settings, the investigators have developed the DR Sensor, a colorimetric nanosensor that detects levels of a urine biomarker indicative of diabetic retinopathy. Current methods for measuring this biomarker require expensive laboratory instruments and lengthy procedure times. The DR Sensor utilizes microfluidic channels impregnated in paper, making the sensing element inexpensive, reliable and disposable. Ultimately, the DR sensor will be coupled with image processing via a simple app that integrates with devices in clinical labs for real-time diagnosis of DR.