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A revolution visible to the ‘naked eye’. How is a Polish team altering the face of ophthalmology?

Worldwide, at least 2.2 billion people suffer from various eye disorders. According to the WHO, almost half of these could have been avoided or are still eligible for treatment. [1]

In Poland, the scale of the problem is even greater — a report from the ‘Great Sight Survey’ indicates that more than half (54 percent) of Poles have a diagnosed eye disease or visual impairment. [2] These figures are corroborated by the National Health Service, which reports that almost 50 percent of Poles aged 16-54 cannot see properly. [3]

Vision problems (sooner or later) will affect almost everyone

The most effective method of preventing the onset and worsening of eye diseases is regular examinations to enable early diagnosis of the disease. One of the essential tools in the ophthalmologist’s arsenal is an optical coherence tomography (OCT) apparatus. 

The examination is completely painless, non-invasive and there are no contraindications to it. The whole thing requires a few minutes, during which the doctor instructs the patient to rest his or her chin and forehead on special supports. The patient then stares at the point in front of him or her without blinking or moving the head.

The spread of OCT tomography has changed the face of ophthalmic diagnostics. Its primary advantage is an extremely detailed image of the individual structures of the eye. However, the method has its limitations — it is not the most effective in the initial detection of subtle lesions.

A revolutionary imaging method. The eye has never been examined in such detail before

Researchers at the International Centre for Eye Research (ICTER) decided to change this. Based on OCT scans, a team of researchers has developed an innovative imaging method, STOC-T, which in most respects “beats its predecessor”. [4]

Temporal-spatial optical coherence tomography enables high-resolution imaging in frontal cross-section. The ultra-sensitive camera captures 100,000 frames per second and allows structures at any depth to be observed. In practice, before a person can blink, the instrumentation will image the entire eye, with a resolution that allows individual cells to be seen (e.g., reconstructing the morphology of the cones).

It is estimated that in around 90% of cases, early diagnosis of these [eye – editor’s note] conditions would reduce their adverse effects. By using the STOC-T research method, we will provide the opportunity to conduct in-vivo studies of drug therapies, providing the necessary information on the quality and efficacy of proposed therapies for eye diseases

– says Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski, Director of the ICTER. [4]

Currently, ophthalmology is quite successful in dealing with cataracts or glaucoma, but diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and many vascular conditions do not offer a cure. Regardless of the disease entity, prompt diagnosis remains inevitably a factor that increases the effectiveness of treatment or at least delays the progression of the disease.

After scanning the eye with the STOC-T method, the recorded images are analyzed by software, which was also developed by ICTER scientists.

We applied known data processing algorithms and developed new ones to handle and process the acquired data sets to obtain high-contrast 3D data (volumes) for the retina in large visual fields. The technology and algorithms used enabled high transverse resolution imaging of the retina and choroid at different depths, making the differentiation of morphology within the Sattler, Haller and choriocapillary layers visible for the first time

– explains Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski. [5]

How will the new imaging method change ophthalmology in Poland and worldwide?

The spread of the STOC-T method would not only allow a much faster and more accurate diagnosis, but also the assessment of the effectiveness of new treatments, which are frequently difficult to assess at the moment. The apparatus itself is relatively small and portable, and commercialization would allow it to be installed in most ophthalmology practices.

The development of eye diagnostics is one of the key elements in the development of medicine — sight is our primary sense, and its dysfunctions are some of the most common and intractable health problems.

In Poland, more than 800 000 people suffer from glaucoma, but only 65 000 receive treatment. In 70 percent of cases, diagnosis is made too late. [3]

The International Eye Research Centre project (MAB/2019/12) is implemented within the framework of the International Research Agendas program of the Foundation for Polish Science, co-financed by the European Union under the European Regional Development Fund.


[1] Blindness and vision impairment, World Health Organization website,, (accessed 19.11.2023);

[2] The Great Sight Survey, Vision Express website,, (accessed 19.11.2023);

[3] Prevention Wednesday – 22 June 2021. – Prevention of eye diseases, NFZ Poznań website,, (accessed 19.11.2023);

[4] When darkness falls, ICTER carries the light. Breakthrough in eye disease diagnosis, MAB website,, (accessed 18.11.2023);

[5] Retina and choroid without secrets thanks to ICTER scientists, Academic Forum website,, (accessed 19.11.2023).

Cover photography: Pixabay

Marcin Szałaj
Absolwent kognitywistyki na Uniwersytecie Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej w Lublinie. Dziennikarz i copywriter, który od lat na bieżąco śledzi wszystkie doniesienia ze świata nauki i działa na rzecz jej popularyzacji.
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