What is Popcorn?
The POPCORN project
Uncorrected refractive errors are the second leading cause of avoidable blindness. Procedures detecting and correcting those errors, such as regular eye exams, glasses, contact lenses or refractive laser based surgery are able thereby to transform the lives of millions of people. It is known that successful laser based refractive surgery can reduce or even eliminate common vision refractive errors and the implantation of intracorneal devices can reduce the impact of corneal degenerative disorders, such as keratoconus. Although these types of surgeries are becoming safer and more affordable, results are sometimes not as successful as they should be. Therefore, these surgical options are not recommendable for any type of patient and a detailed preoperative patient evaluation of the patient´s cornea is required before deciding whether a refractive laser based surgery or intracorneal implant is adequate or not. This evaluation should not be only based on the examination of the corneal surface geometry but also on the mechanical properties of the corneal tissue which will be modified with the surgical procedure.
According to this, the main objective of the POPCORN project is to develop a non- invasive and accurate corneal system for characterizing corneal biomechanics and predicting mechanical changes of the corneal structures after different types of changes. This system will be based on a new technology that will generate a personalized and in-vivo biomechanical model of the patient´s cornea. This model will be used to predict the biomechanical behavior and status of the cornea after surgery. This will allow detecting and avoiding possible risks and negative side effects that could lead to the need of further additional treatments or even to long term consequences for the patient´s visual health.
This technology development will be possible thanks to the introduction of plenoptic imaging techniques that will allow generating the specific in-vivo patient model without any invasive technique. This will increase the comfort of the evaluation while being highly accurate and providing precise diagnosis of corneal diseases. Until now, assessing the biomechanical properties of the corneal tissue in the clinical practice was limited to the measurement of the parameter called Corneal Hysteresis and provided by the commercially available device ORA (Ocular Response Analyzer). Clinicians that cannot afford to access to this system were limited to measure geometric aspects of the cornea and corneal thickness and from these data to perform some assumptions. The new POPCORN system will allow a meticulous evaluation of patients before a laser based refractive surgical procedure, avoiding future negative long term side effects or patients being wrongly reoriented to other not as effective treatments.
In conclusion, the POPCORN project is a European research project granted by the European Comission within the 7th Framework Programme (Research for SMEs, Grant Agreement number 606634) whose aim is to develop a system based on 3D plenoptic imaging for dynamic topographical corneal characterization as well as a corneal biomechanical model allowing in combination an easy and fast characterization of corneal biomechanics in the clinical setting. The duration of the project is of 30 months and it will be finished in 2016.