UNLABELLED: Oral delivery of poorly soluble and permeable drugs represents a significant challenge in drug development. The oral delivery of drugs remains to be the ultimate route of any drugs. However, in many cases, drugs are not absorbed well in the gastrointestinal tract, or they lose their activity. Polymer micelles were recognized as an effective carrier system for drug encapsulation, and are now studied as a vehicle for oral delivery of insoluble compounds. We characterized the properties of monomethoxy polyethylene glycol-poly lactic acid (mPEG-PLA) micelles, and visualized their internalization in mouse small intestine. Using Caco-2 cells as a cellular model, we studied the kinetics of particle uptake, their transport, and the molecular mechanism of their intestinal absorption. Moreover, by inhibiting specific endocytosis pathways, pharmacologically and genetically, we found that mPEG-PLA nanoparticle endocytosis is mediated by clathrin in an energy-dependent manner, and that the low-density lipoprotein receptor is involved. FROM THE CLINICAL EDITOR: Many current drugs used are non-water soluble and indeed, the ability to deliver these drugs via the gastrointestinal tract remains the holy grail for many researchers. The authors in this paper developed monomethoxy polyethylene glycol-poly lactic acid (mPEG-PLA) micelles as a drug nanocarrier, and studied the mechanism of uptake across intestinal cells. The findings should improve our current understanding and point to the development of more nanocarriers.
PURPOSE: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of topical tacrolimus 0.05% versus topical methylprednisolone 0.5% in patients with ocular graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). DESIGN: Phase 1/2 prospective, randomized, double-masked clinical trial. PARTICIPANTS: Eighty eyes of 40 patients diagnosed with chronic ocular GVHD were enrolled. METHODS: Forty patients with ocular GVHD were randomized; 24 patients were treated with topical tacrolimus 0.05% and 16 patients were treated with topical methylprednisolone 0.5% twice daily for 10 weeks, in addition to continuing their baseline treatment regimen. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Safety was evaluated based on occurrence of adverse events. Tolerability was assessed based on subject reports of discomfort after drop instillation. Intraocular pressure (IOP) was monitored. The main efficacy end points were corneal fluorescein staining (CFS), tear film break-up time (TBUT), Schirmer test results, and expression of the ocular surface inflammatory markers human leukocyte antigen-DR (HLA-DR) and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1). Symptoms were evaluated using the Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI). RESULTS: After 10 weeks of treatment, no major adverse events occurred in either treatment group, and there was no significant difference in the composite tolerability scores between the 2 groups (P = 0.06). However, burning sensation was more pronounced with tacrolimus (P = 0.002). Topical tacrolimus was more effective than methylprednisolone in reducing the CFS score at week 10 (55% vs. 23% reduction, respectively; P = 0.01) and achieved significant improvement in TBUT when compared with baseline (P < 0.001). Reduction in OSDI score achieved statistical significance with tacrolimus (27% reduction; P = 0.02), but was marginal with methylprednisolone (32% reduction; P = 0.06). Expression of ICAM-1 by ocular surface epithelium decreased significantly in both groups (tacrolimus, P = 0.003; methylprednisolone, P = 0.008), whereas HLA-DR expression decreased significantly only in the tacrolimus group (P = 0.03). Schirmer test scores did not change significantly in either group during the study; IOP increased significantly with methylprednisolone at week 10 (P = 0.04). CONCLUSIONS: Topical tacrolimus 0.05% is safe, generally well tolerated, and effective for the treatment of ocular GVHD without the hypertensive effects of topical corticosteroids.
PURPOSE: To describe clinical manifestations, diagnostic approaches, therapy, and outcomes of biopsy-proven intraocular lymphoma. METHODS: Review of tertiary referral center records between 2005 and 2015. RESULTS: A total of 51 eyes of 26 patients were included; mean age of onset was 60.42 years. Common ocular complaints included floaters (42%) and blurred vision (35%); 62% of patients had ocular and central nervous system involvement; 11% had systemic lymphoma; and 27% had only ocular involvement. Vitreous analysis was positive for malignant cells in 77% of patients on initial biopsy, and in 100% of patients on repeat biopsy. In total, 20/26 patients received systemic and topical treatment before IOL diagnosis was made; 25 patients received intravitreal methotrexate and/or rituximab; one patient received intracameral rituximab. All patients achieved remission by their final visit. CONCLUSIONS: Intraocular lymphoma often masquerades as intraocular inflammation, resulting in delayed or misdiagnosis with subsequent inappropriate management. Optimal therapy is a challenge for oncologists and ophthalmologists.
PURPOSE: Drug-induced uveitis is a well-known effect of ocular inflammation that has been reported with many medications. Pembrolizumab is a newer generation of the anti-programmed cell death-1 monoclonal antibodies that was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of advanced melanoma. Immune-mediated adverse events involving different organs have been reported in recent literature in association with this drug. We present the first reported case of uveitis in association with pembrolizumab therapy. CASE REPORT: An 82-year-old man with stage IV melanoma was started on pembrolizumab infusion treatment every 3 weeks. Two months after initiating therapy, he presented with bilateral severe anterior uveitis and papillitis with fast and complete recovery after withholding further pembrolizumab infusions and treatment with topical steroid. Uveitis recurred after restarting pembrolizumab therapy. CONCLUSIONS: In current clinical practice, many new drugs are being approved, requiring better characterization of the prevalence, onset, and nature of adverse events in order to aid development of effective management strategies. Ophthalmologists should keep in mind that drugs are always a possible cause of ocular inflammation in patients presenting with uveitis.
Uveitis is a common and serious complication of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Up to 75% of all cases of anterior uveitis in childhood are associated with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Despite the remarkable progress in early detection and treatment of inflammation, vision-threatening complications of uveitis still occur in almost 60% of patients. Structural complications include band keratopathy, maculopathy (macular edema, macular cysts, and epiretinal membrane), glaucomatous optic neuropathy, and cataracts. The management of complications in juvenile idiopathic arthritis is usually complex and requires early surgical intervention. In this paper, we review the general concepts of common ocular complications seen in patients with JIA-associated uveitis, with special attention to the recent diagnostic and preferred treatment approaches at the Massachusetts Eye Research and Surgery Institution. Received 9 March 2015; revised 30 September 2015; accepted 30 October 2015; published online 14 January 2016.
High-risk human papilloma virus (HR-HPV) is a well-established causative agent of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In addition, HR-HPV has occasionally been reported to be present in dysplastic and malignant lesions of the conjunctiva and lacrimal sac, although its overall incidence and etiological role in periocular SCC are controversial. Sequential surgical samples of 52 combined cases of invasive SCC (I-SCC) and SCC in situ (SCCIS) from 2 periocular sites (conjunctiva and lacrimal sac) diagnosed over a 14-year period (2000 to 2014) were selected for evaluation, and relevant patient characteristics were documented. p16 immunohistochemistry was performed as a screening test. All p16-positive cases were further evaluated for HR-HPV using DNA in situ hybridization (DNA ISH), and a subset was also analyzed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Of 43 ocular surface squamous neoplasias (OSSNs), 30% (n=13; 8 SCCIS and 5 I-SCC cases) were positive for HR-HPV. HPV-positive OSSNs occurred in 8 men and 5 women with a mean age of 60 years (range, 39 to 94 y). HPV type-16 was detected in all conjunctival cases evaluated by PCR. All 5 conjunctival I-SCCs were nonkeratinizing (n=4) or partially keratinizing (n=1) and managed by simple excision. In contrast, HPV-negative conjunctival I-SCCs were predominantly keratinizing (11 keratinizing and 2 nonkeratinizing). Of 9 lacrimal sac I-SCCs (LSSCCs), 66.7% (n=6) were positive for HR-HPV by p16 and DNA ISH; HPV subtypes were HPV-16 (n=5) and HPV-58 (n=1). In addition, 2 p16-positive cases with negative DNA ISH results were HR-HPV positive (HPV-16 and HPV-33) when evaluated by PCR, suggesting that the rate of HR-HPV positivity among the LSSCCs may be as high as 89% (n=8). The combined group of HR-HPV-positive LSSCCs was seen in 4 men and 4 women with a mean age of 60 years (range, 34 to 71 y). Seven of the 8 HPV-positive LSSCCs (87.5%) had a nonkeratinizing or partially keratinizing histomorphology, whereas 1 case (12.5%) was predominantly keratinizing. The presence of HR-HPV in 30% of OSSNs and at least 66.7% of LSSCCs suggests the possibility of an etiologic role for HR-HPV at these sites.
PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to report the clinical, imaging, and histopathological findings of bilateral, conjunctival adult-onset xanthogranulomas that raised the prospect of a mild form of Erdheim-Chester disease. METHODS: This is a case report. RESULTS: A 35-year-old white male complaining of ocular irritation, presented with bilateral, nasal and temporal, yellow, elevated conjunctival lumps first noticed 1.5 years back, which were not associated with other ocular findings. The lesions were firm, attached to the underlying episclera, and measured 1.1 × 0.9, 1.1 × 0.8, 1.2 × 0.5, and 0.5 × 0.5 cm in the temporal and nasal right and left eyes, respectively. Each mass was fleshy with vascularity at the peripheral margin. Histopathologic evaluation after excisional biopsy revealed lipidized xanthoma cells, multiple Touton giant cells, and lymphocytes. Immunohistochemical staining was positive for adipophilin (lipid), CD68, CD163 histiocytes, CD3 T cells (with CD8 cytotoxic T cells > CD4 T-helper cells), and virtually no CD20 B cells or IgG4 plasma cells. The patient later acquired similar xanthogranulomatous subcutaneous lesions on the extremities. Positron emission tomography scans showed sclerosis in the medullary cavities of the tibia and the radius of both legs and arms, and an absence of retroperitoneal lesions. A normal serum immunoelectrophoresis and the absence of a BRAF gene mutation were demonstrated. CONCLUSIONS: Adult-onset xanthogranuloma can present as a solitary conjunctival mass without periocular or orbital involvement. The clinical, histopathologic, and radiologic findings in this case are suggestive of Erdheim-Chester disease without displaying any life-threatening lesions to date. Histopathologic and imaging studies can help in obtaining a diagnosis. Ophthalmologists should be aware that xanthogranulomatous conditions may have potential systemic implications, and a thorough systemic evaluation is recommended for lesions that initially seemed to be isolated in nature.
PURPOSE: Corneal infections, particularly fungal keratitis due to rare fungal species, pose a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge because of difficulty in identification and varying susceptibility profiles. In this study, we report the first case of fungal keratitis because of Exophiala phaeomuriformis. METHODS: We report the clinical findings and microbial identification techniques of a case of fungal keratitis due to E. phaeomuriformis. An 84-year-old woman presented with redness, pain, and itching in the left eye for 2 weeks. Slit-lamp biomicroscopy revealed one broken suture from previous penetrating keratoplasty (PKP), black infiltrates at the 4-o'clock position, without an overlying epithelial defect and hypopyon. Microbial identification was based cultures on Sabouraud dextrose agar and DNA sequencing and correlations to laser in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM; Heidelberg Retinal Tomograph 3/Rostock Cornea Module, Heidelberg Engineering) and multiphoton microscopy (Ultima Microscope; Prairie Technologies) images. RESULTS: Slit-lamp biomicroscopy revealed one broken suture from previous PKP, black infiltrates at the 4-o'clock position, without an overlying epithelial defect and hypopyon. Based on a clinical suspicion of fungal keratitis, antifungals and fortified antibiotics were started. However, the patient did not respond to therapy and required urgent PKP. After surgery, the patient was maintained on topical and systemic voriconazole and also topical 2% cyclosporine for 5 months because of possibility of scleral involvement noticed during surgery. At the end of the treatment period, her vision improved from hand motion to 20/40, with no recurrence observed in a follow-up period of 1 year. Results of diagnostic tests were supported by fungal elements in stroma on IVCM. Culture from the infiltrate grew black yeast. DNA sequencing led to the diagnosis of E. phaeomuriformis keratitis. Antifungal susceptibility testing revealed sensitivity to voriconazole. CONCLUSION: This is, to our knowledge, the first reported case of E. phaeomuriformis fungal keratitis. Diagnostic testing included slit-lamp biomicroscopy, which revealed pigmented infiltrates, culture plates grew black yeast, microscopy showed branched fungal hyphae with budding conidia, and physiological features showed tolerance to high temperatures, nitrate assimilation, and ribosomal DNA sequencing. Collectively, these tests demonstrate unique features seen for this microorganism. High suspicion should be kept with pigmented infiltrates and with dark yeast on culture plates. Prompt and aggressive medical management with voriconazole or therapeutic PKP in nonresponsive cases is essential to prevent irreversible loss of vision.
OBJECTIVE: Patients suffering from corneal neuropathy may present with photoallodynia; i.e., increased light sensitivity, frequently with a normal slit-lamp examination. This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of autologous serum tears (AST) for treatment of severe photoallodynia in corneal neuropathy and to correlate clinical findings with corneal subbasal nerve alterations by in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM). METHODS: Retrospective case control study with 16 patients with neuropathy-induced severe photoallodynia compared to 16 normal controls. Symptom severity, clinical examination and bilateral corneal IVCM scans were recorded. RESULTS: All patients suffered from extreme photoallodynia (8.8±1.1) with no concurrent ocular surface disease. Subbasal nerves were significantly decreased at baseline in patients compared to controls; total nerve length (9208±1264 vs 24714±1056 μm/mm(2); P<.0001) and total nerve number (9.6±1.4 vs 28.6±2.0; P<.0001), respectively. Morphologically, significantly increased reflectivity (2.9±0.2 vs 1.8±0.1; P<.0001), beading (in 93.7%), and neuromas (in 62.5%) were seen. AST (3.6±2.1 months) resulted in significantly decreased symptom severity (1.6±1.7; P=.02). IVCM demonstrated significantly improved nerve parameters (P<.005), total nerve length (15451±1595 μm/mm(2)), number (13.9±2.1), and reflectivity (1.9±0.1). Beading and neuromas were seen in only 56.2% and 7.6% of patients. CONCLUSION: Patients with corneal neuropathy-induced photoallodynia show profound alterations in corneal nerves. AST restores nerve topography through nerve regeneration, and this correlated with improvement in patient-reported photoallodynia. The data support the notion that corneal nerve damage results in alterations in afferent trigeminal pathways to produce photoallodynia.
IMPORTANCE: Optimization of glycemic control is critical to reduce the number of diabetes mellitus-related complications, but long-term success is challenging. Although vision loss is among the greatest fears of individuals with diabetes, comprehensive personalized diabetes education and risk assessments are not consistently used in ophthalmologic settings. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether the point-of-care measurement of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and personalized diabetes risk assessments performed during retinal ophthalmologic visits improve glycemic control as assessed by HbA1c level. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Ophthalmologist office-based randomized, multicenter clinical trial in which investigators from 42 sites were randomly assigned to provide either a study-prescribed augmented diabetes assessment and education or the usual care. Adults with type 1 or 2 diabetes enrolled into 2 cohorts: those with a more-frequent-than-annual follow-up (502 control participants and 488 intervention participants) and those with an annual follow-up (368 control participants and 388 intervention participants). Enrollment was from April 2011 through January 2013. INTERVENTIONS: Point-of-care measurements of HbA1c, blood pressure, and retinopathy severity; an individualized estimate of the risk of retinopathy progression derived from the findings from ophthalmologic visits; structured comparison and review of past and current clinical findings; and structured education with immediate assessment and feedback regarding participant's understanding. These interventions were performed at enrollment and at routine ophthalmic follow-up visits scheduled at least 12 weeks apart. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Mean change in HbA1c level from baseline to 1-year follow-up. Secondary outcomes included body mass index, blood pressure, and responses to diabetes self-management practices and attitudes surveys. RESULTS: In the cohort with more-frequent-than-annual follow-ups, the mean (SD) change in HbA1c level at 1 year was -0.1% (1.5%) in the control group and -0.3% (1.4%) in the intervention group (adjusted mean difference, -0.09% [95% CI, -0.29% to 0.12%]; P = .35). In the cohort with annual follow-ups, the mean (SD) change in HbA1c level was 0.0% (1.1%) in the control group and -0.1% (1.6%) in the intervention group (mean difference, -0.05% [95% CI, -0.27% to 0.18%]; P = .63). Results were similar for all secondary outcomes. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Long-term optimization of glycemic control is not achieved by a majority of individuals with diabetes. The addition of personalized education and risk assessment during retinal ophthalmologic visits did not result in a reduction in HbA1c level compared with usual care over 1 year. These data suggest that optimizing glycemic control remains a substantive challenge requiring interventional paradigms other than those examined in our study. TRIAL REGISTRATION: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier:NCT01323348.
PURPOSE: To compare effectiveness of fornix- and limbal-based conjunctival flaps in trabeculectomy surgery. DESIGN: Systematic review. METHODS: Setting: CENTRAL, MEDLINE, LILACS, ISRCTN registry, ClinicalTrials.gov, WHO, and ICTRP were searched to identify eligible randomized controlled trials (RCTs). STUDY POPULATION: RCTs in which benefits and complications of fornix- vs limbal-based trabeculectomy for glaucoma were compared in adult glaucoma patients. OBSERVATION PROCEDURE: We followed Cochrane methodology for data extraction. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Proportion of failed trabeculectomies at 24 months, defined as the need for repeat surgery or uncontrolled intraocular pressure (IOP) >22 mm Hg, despite topical/systemic medications. RESULTS: The review included 6 trials with a total of 361 participants, showing no difference in effectiveness between fornix-based vs limbal-based trabeculectomy surgery, although with a high level of uncertainty owing to low event rates. In the fornix-based and limbal-based surgery, mean IOP at 12 months was similar, with ranges of 12.5-15.5 mm Hg and 11.7-15.1 mm Hg, respectively. Mean difference was 0.44 mm Hg (95% CI -0.45 to 1.33) and 0.86 mm Hg (95% CI -0.52 to 2.24) at 12 and 24 months of follow-up, respectively. Mean number of postoperative glaucoma medications was similar between the 2 groups. Mean difference was 0.02 (95% CI -0.15 to 0.19) at 12 months. As far as postoperative complications, an increased risk of shallow anterior chamber was observed in the limbal-based group. CONCLUSION: Similar efficacy of trabeculectomy surgery with respect to bleb failure or IOP control was observed in both types of conjunctival flap incisions. A significant difference was detected in the risk of postoperative shallow anterior chamber, which was increased in the limbal-based group.
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a group of severe inherited retinal dystrophies that lead to early childhood blindness. In the last decade, interest in LCA has increased as advances in genetics have been applied to better identify, classify, and treat LCA. To date, 23 LCA genes have been identified. Gene replacement in the RPE65 form of LCA represents a major advance in treatment, although limitations have been recognized. In this article, we review the clinical and genetic features of LCA and evaluate the evidence available for gene therapy in RPE65 disease.
We report the whole-genome sequence (WGS) of an in vitro susceptible derivative revertant mutant from a bloodstream isolate involved in a nosocomial outbreak in Brazil. The WGS comprises 2.5 Mb with 2,500 protein-coding sequences, 16rRNA genes, and 60 tRNA genes.
NR2E3 encodes the photoreceptor-specific nuclear hormone receptor that acts as a repressor of cone-specific gene expression in rod photoreceptors, and as an activator of several rod-specific genes. Recessive variants located in the ligand-binding domain (LBD) of NR2E3 cause enhanced short wavelength sensitive- (S-) cone syndrome (ESCS), a retinal degeneration characterized by an excess of S-cones and non-functional rods. We analyzed the dimerization properties of NR2E3 and the effect of disease-causing LBD missense variants by bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET(2) ) protein interaction assays. Homodimerization was not affected in presence of p.A256V, p.R039G, p.R311Q, and p.R334G variants, but abolished in presence of p.L263P, p.L336P, p.L353V, p.R385P, and p.M407K variants. Homology modeling predicted structural changes induced by NR2E3 LBD variants. NR2E3 LBD variants did not affect interaction with CRX, but with NRL and rev-erbα/NR1D1. CRX and NRL heterodimerized more efficiently together, than did either with NR2E3. NR2E3 did not heterodimerize with TLX/NR2E1 and RXRα/NR2C1. The identification of a new compound heterozygous patient with detectable rod function, who expressed solely the p.A256V variant protein, suggests a correlation between LBD variants able to form functional NR2E3 dimers and atypical mild forms of ESCS with residual rod function.
Emotional face recognition is impaired in bipolar disorder, but it is not clear whether this is specific for the illness. Here, we investigated how aging and bipolar disorder influence dynamic emotional face recognition. Twenty older adults, 16 bipolar patients, and 20 control subjects performed a dynamic affective facial recognition task and a subsequent rating task. Participants pressed a key as soon as they were able to discriminate whether the neutral face was assuming a happy or angry facial expression and then rated the intensity of each facial expression. Results showed that older adults recognized happy expressions faster, whereas bipolar patients recognized angry expressions faster. Furthermore, both groups rated emotional faces more intensely than did the control subjects. This study is one of the first to compare how aging and clinical conditions influence emotional facial recognition and underlines the need to consider the role of specific and common factors in emotional face recognition.
PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to compare patient-reported symptoms of dry eye disease (DED) as assessed by the Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI), a 12-item symptom frequency-based questionnaire, and the Symptom Assessment iN Dry Eye (SANDE), a 2-item frequency- and severity-based visual analog scale. DESIGN: Clinic-based evaluation of a diagnostic test. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 114 patients with DED. METHODS: Patients were administered the OSDI and SANDE questionnaires at baseline and follow-up visits to evaluate DED-related symptoms. The correlations between both questionnaires' scores were evaluated using the Spearman coefficient, and their clinical differences were assessed using Bland-Altman analysis. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Baseline and follow-up visit OSDI and SANDE dry eye symptom scores. RESULTS: At the baseline visit, the OSDI and SANDE questionnaire scores were significantly correlated (R = 0.64; P < 0.001). Moreover, a significant correlation was found between changes in the OSDI and SANDE scores from baseline to follow-up visits (R = 0.47; P < 0.001). A Bland-Altman analysis, after score normalization, revealed a difference (bias) of less than 2 centesimal units between the scores of the 2 questionnaires. CONCLUSIONS: Data collected from the SANDE questionnaire showed a significant correlation and negligible score differences with those from the OSDI, suggesting that the SANDE visual analog scale-based questionnaire has the potential to provide clinicians with a short, quick, and reliable measure for DED symptoms.
Organismal development requires the precise coordination of genetic programs to regulate cell fate and function. MEF2 transcription factors (TFs) play essential roles in this process but how these broadly expressed factors contribute to the generation of specific cell types during development is poorly understood. Here we show that despite being expressed in virtually all mammalian tissues, in the retina MEF2D binds to retina-specific enhancers and controls photoreceptor cell development. MEF2D achieves specificity by cooperating with a retina-specific factor CRX, which recruits MEF2D away from canonical MEF2 binding sites and redirects it to retina-specific enhancers that lack the consensus MEF2-binding sequence. Once bound to retina-specific enhancers, MEF2D and CRX co-activate the expression of photoreceptor-specific genes that are critical for retinal function. These findings demonstrate that broadly expressed TFs acquire specific functions through competitive recruitment to enhancers by tissue-specific TFs and through selective activation of these enhancers to regulate tissue-specific genes.
PURPOSE: To assess the performance of a novel system for automated tortuosity estimation and interpretation. METHODS: A supervised strategy (driven by observers' grading) was employed to automatically identify the combination of tortuosity measures (i.e., tortuosity representation) leading to the best agreement with the observers. We investigated 18 tortuosity measures including curvature and density of inflection points, computed at multiple spatial scales. To leverage tortuosity interpretation, we propose the tortuosity plane (TP) onto which each image is mapped. Experiments were carried out on 140 images of subbasal nerve plexus of the central cornea, covering four levels of tortuosity. Three experienced observers graded each image independently. RESULTS: The best tortuosity representation was the combination of mean curvature at spatial scales 2 and 5. These tortuosity measures were the axes of the proposed TP (interpretation). The system for tortuosity estimation revealed strong agreement with the observers on a global and per-level basis. The agreement with each observer (Spearman's correlation) was statistically significant (αs = 0.05, P < 0.0001) and higher than that of at least one of the other observers in two out of three cases (ρOUR = 0.7594 versus ρObs3 = 0.7225; ρOUR = 0.8880 versus ρObs1 = 0.8017, ρObs3 = 0.7315). Based on paired-sample t-tests, these improvements were significant (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Our automated system stratifies images by four tortuosity levels (discrete scale) matching or exceeding the accuracy of experienced observers. Of importance, the TP allows the assessment of tortuosity on a two-dimensional continuous scale, thus leading to a finer discrimination among images.
Recent clinical research has highlighted important links between a number of diseases and the tortuosity of curvilinear anatomical structures like corneal nerve fibres, suggesting that tortuosity changes might detect early stages of specific conditions. Currently, clinical studies are mainly based on subjective, visual assessment, with limited repeatability and inter-observer agreement. To address these problems, we propose a fully automated framework for image-level tortuosity estimation, consisting of a hybrid segmentation method and a highly adaptable, definition-free tortuosity estimation algorithm. The former combines an appearance model, based on a Scale and Curvature-Invariant Ridge Detector (SCIRD), with a context model, including multi-range learned context filters. The latter is based on a novel tortuosity estimation paradigm in which discriminative, multi-scale features can be automatically learned for specific anatomical objects and diseases. Experimental results on 140 in vivo confocal microscopy images of corneal nerve fibres from healthy and unhealthy subjects demonstrate the excellent performance of our method compared to state-of-the-art approaches and ground truth annotations from 3 expert observers.