Rhodopsin, the light-sensing molecule in the outer segments of rod photoreceptors, is responsible for converting light into neuronal signals in a process known as phototransduction. Rhodopsin is thus a functional biomarker for rod photoreceptors. Here we report a novel technology based on visible-light optical coherence tomography (VIS-OCT) for in vivo molecular imaging of rhodopsin. The depth resolution of OCT allows the visualization of the location where the change of optical absorption occurs and provides a potentially accurate assessment of rhodopsin content by segmentation of the image at the location. Rhodopsin OCT can be used to quantitatively image rhodopsin distribution and thus assess the distribution of functional rod photoreceptors in the retina. Rhodopsin OCT can bring significant impact into ophthalmic clinics by providing a tool for the diagnosis and severity assessment of a variety of retinal conditions.
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