Heidelberg, Germany — June 6, 2013 —
A SPECTRALIS OCT ophthalmic imaging device from Heidelberg Engineering is currently on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). The SPECTRALIS took off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou on June 5th in the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Automated Transfer Vehicle “Albert Einstein” (ATV-4) atop an ARIANE 5 rocket. ATV-4 is scheduled to dock on the ISS on June 15. Soon thereafter, ISS crewmembers will use the SPECTRALIS for detailed examinations of the back of their eyes. This endeavour is part of a high priority NASA program to study the etiology of recently discovered ocular changes in astronauts after space flight, and to mitigate potentially sight-threatening risks for astronauts on long duration missions. NASA has purchased several SPECTRALIS OCT devices from Heidelberg Engineering to examine astronauts before, during and after space missions. SPECTRALIS baseline examinations of ISS crewmembers were acquired during the last few months in Houston, Texas.
“On Earth, SPECTRALIS OCT spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) devices are used by ophthalmologists and optometrists to aid in the diagnoses and monitoring of ocular diseases”, explained Dr. Gerhard Zinser, Managing Director and co-founder of Heidelberg Engineering. “High resolution cross sectional OCT images of the retina and simultaneously acquired fundus images taken with the SPECTRALIS allow a comprehensive study of the back of the eye, also in space”, he added.
“NASA will use the AutoRescanTM function of the SPECTRALIS to perform serial OCT examinations aboard ISS as well as on Earth”, said Dr. Kester Nahen, Managing Director of Heidelberg Engineering. “The active eye tracker of the SPECTRALIS will ensure that terrestrial and extra-terrestrial OCT scans are automatically performed at the same anatomic location on the retina, which enables tracking ocular changes over time”, he added.
The commercial SPECTRALIS OCT went through rigorous evaluation by NASA prior to its launch. Zero gravity tests were performed on parabolic flights over the Gulf of Mexico last year. “We were happy to see the SPECTRALIS units fully functional after rocket launch simulation a few months ago. An environment we did not envision when the product was designed”, Dr. Gerhard Zinser admitted with a smile on his face. “We now look forward to the transmission of the first SPECTRALIS images from the ISS to Earth” he added.