This probably won't grab as many headlines as the news of a smartphone that wakes you up with the sizzle and smell of bacon, but it should!
A team of Stanford scientists is using 3D printing to create inexpensive adapters that make it easy to use a smartphone and an ordinary examination lens to capture high-quality images of the front and back of the eye. And - what seems to me as just as important - providing a nearly effortless way to share those images.
"Think Instagram for the eyes," said one of the developers, assistant professor of ophthalmology Robert Chang, MD.
This is a big deal because most primary-care doctors have no good way to see into patients' eyes, and no easy way to share the images. The usual eye-imaging instruments are expensive and hard to use, and even ophthalmologists who have the equipment and know-how find capturing and sharing the images slow going.
As one of Chang's fellow developers, Stanford ophthalmology resident Dave Myung, MD, PhD, told me when I interviewed him for an article in Inside Stanford Medicine:
"A picture is truly worth a thousand words... Imagine a car accident victim arriving in the emergency department with an eye injury resulting in a hyphema - blood inside the front of her eye. Normally the physician would have to describe this finding in her electronic record with words alone. Smartphones today not only have the camera resolution to supplement those words with a high-resolution photo, but also the data-transfer capability to upload that photo securely to the medical record in a matter of seconds."
The scientists describe the adapters, currently dubbed the EyeGo, in two articles in the new issue (volume 3, issue 1) of Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine. And you can read my story to learn more about the development process, including how Myung pieced together the first prototype (with plastic bits he ordered from the Internet and a few Legos), how mechanical engineering graduate student Alex Jais created the first printed model on his own 3D printer, and how residents Lisa He, MD, and Brian Toy, MD, are leading studies to test them out.
Those interested in using an EyeGo adapter for research or beta-testing can e-mail the team at email@example.com.
Previously: Image of the Week: Sigmoid volvulus and Treating common forms of blindness using tissue generated with ink-jet printing technology
Photograph by Dave Myung