The Advanced Retinal Imaging Alliance (ARIA) is a multidisciplinary lab comprised of researchers from the Flaum Eye Institute, the Center for Visual Science and The Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. ARIA uses adaptive optics to capture the structure and function of the retina on a cellular scale.
Two ongoing research projects involve retinal imaging of rodent models. One study involves immune cell behavior, and the other is studying changes in metabolism. Both immune response and metabolism are altered in disease. However, the environment can affect our measurements if certain factors, most notably temperature, are not controlled. If we cannot regulate the rodent's basal temperature, it is difficult to successfully image the retina due to cataract formation. This subsequently affects conclusions that can be drawn from these studies.
ARIA uses custom-built imaging instruments, which includes a surgical stage that keeps the rodent properly aligned with respect to the instrument. As such, commercially available thermoregulatory systems are too bulky or inflexible to fit in the stage. They are also designed for use in lighted conditions, while ARIA typically images in the dark to maximize signals.
Therefore, our goal is to create a rodent thermoregulator which is compatible with the current imaging setup. We plan to deliver a working and tested prototype that fits all physical requirements and also moves beyond temperature to also monitor heart rate and oxygen saturation so that the customer can have a host of other data to incorporate into current and future research.