Terahertz scanning of the rabbit cornea with experimental UVB-induced damage: In vivo assessment of hydration and its verification
Significance: Water content plays a vital role in the normally functioning visual system; even a minor disruption in the water balance may be harmful. Today, no direct method exists for corneal hydration assessment, while it could be instrumental in early diagnosis and control of a variety of eye diseases. The use of terahertz (THz) radiation, which is highly sensitive to water content, appears to be very promising. Aim: To find out how THz scanning parameters of corneal tissue measured by an experimental setup, specially developed for in vivo contactless estimations of corneal reflectivity coefficient (RC), are related to pathological changes in the cornea caused by B-band ultraviolet (UVB) exposure. Approach: The setup was tested on rabbit eyes in vivo. Prior to the course of UVB irradiation and 1, 5, and 30 days after it, a series of examinations of the corneal state was made. At the same time points, corneal hydration was assessed by measuring RC. Results: The obtained data confirmed the negative impact of UVB irradiation course on the intensity of tear production and on the corneal thickness and optical parameters. A significant (1.8 times) increase in RC on the 5th day after the irradiation course, followed by a slight decrease on the 30th day after it was revealed. The RC increase measured 5 days after the UVB irradiation course generally corresponded to the increase (by a factor of 1.3) of tear production. RC increase occurred with the corneal edema, which was manifested by corneal thickening (by 18.2% in the middle area and 17.6% in corneal periphery) and an increased volume of corneal tissue (by 17.6%). Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that the proposed approach can be used for in vivo contactless estimation of the reflectivity of rabbit cornea in the THz range and, thereby, of cornea hydration.