Michael Abramoff , PhD
The long range goal of Dr. Abramoff's research is to make computer aided diagnosis and digital retinal imaging for the screening, diagnosis and measurement of diabetic retinopathy, age related macular degeneration and glaucoma, patient friendly, low-cost and effective. These diseases are the big three causes of blindness in the US and most of the developing world, and screening and timely treatment is known to be effective or even cost-effective. Dr. Abramoff and his students and coworkers are developing novel methods for computer aided diagnosis and image analysis, retinal imaging at ultra wide field and ultra high resolution, image guided laser therapy of the retina. His research combines clinical ophthalmology, visual neuroscience and bioinformatics to study the phenotypes and genotypes of these diseases. Dr. Abramoff and coworkers have established large retinal imaging networks in the Midwest of the US and the Netherlands, with wide spread networks of retinal cameras connected through the internet to the University of Iowa, for screening of diabetic retinopathy. The tens of thousands of patients that are being image this way form the 'laboratory' for their research. Previously they have shown that computer aided diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma compares to retinal experts in small studies of hundreds of patients. They have developed image analysis algorithms that simulate the visual processing by the human brain to improve existing image analysis techniques, using for example computer simulations of simple and complex cell phase shifted gabor wavelet receptive fields. They are now starting to test the image processing algorithms on larger groups of patients collected through the network. Because computer aided diagnosis allows quantification of a retinal phenotype, preliminary studies are being performed to study the association of quantitative phenotype and genotype (SNP analysis) in age related macular degeneration and other retinal diseases in collaboration with the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration at the UI. An essential part of Dr. Abramoff's research is thus formed by an effective large scale network of high quality retinal imaging. Dr. Abramoff and coworkers have recently developed a patient-friendly, low cost camera, supported by an R01 from the NIH to build the network even more rapidly.