Yali Jia, Ph.D., codeveloped an algorithm that enables a highly efficient, non-invasive eye imaging technology called optical coherence tomographic angiography, or OCTA.
In recognition of this and other contributions, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology has presented Jia, Jennie P. Weeks Professor of Ophthalmology and an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine and Casey Eye Institute, with the 2019 ARVO Pfizer Ophthalmics Carl Camras Translational Research Award.
“This award is a huge encouragement for me, women scientists and the OCT and OCTA community,” Jia said in ARVO’s announcement.
The award recognizes exceptional eye researchers who are 45 years old or younger and whose scientific discoveries are being or will soon be used by eye care physicians or their patients.
The algorithm and optical coherence tomography
Jia developed the split-spectrum amplitude-decorrelation angiography, or SSADA, algorithm alongside David Huang, M.D., Ph.D., Peterson Professor of Ophthalmology and a professor of biomedical engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine and Casey Eye Institute. Huang co-invented OCTA’s precursor, optical coherence tomography, or OCT.
An OCT scan shines invisible infrared light into the eye to form images. It produces cross-sectional images and can measure thin layers inside the eye. It’s been used since the 1990s to monitor eye health and is particularly important in developing treatment plans for age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic eye diseases — the three leading causes of blindness.
OHSU’s Technology Transfer and Business Development recognized Jia as a 2018 New Inventor of the Year.
The SSADA algorithm enables OCT scanning devices to produce more detailed eye imaging. The resulting OCTA images map out the smallest capillaries in the back of an eye within a few seconds, while also correcting for blinking and eye motion. The noninvasive scan examines the microvasculature of the retina and choroid with laser light, without using the dye injection that conventional angiography requires. Serial OCTA scans can measure the loss of blood flow or growth of abnormal vessels over time.
SSADA made it possible for OCTA to become practical for eye physicians to use in the clinic. Before SSADA, OCTA was considered a technology for research only. Jia’s original paper on SSADA, published in 2012 by Optics Express, has been cited 900 times.
Jia also helped develop an ultra-sensitive optical microangiography algorithm called OMAG, which is considered an alternative to SSADA. Jia contributed to that algorithm’s development while working in the OHSU bioengineering lab of Ruikang Wang, Ph.D., who is now at the University of Washington.
Jia earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from OHSU in 2010 under Wang’s guidance. She completed post-doctoral training in 2013 with Huang. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and has co-edited three books.