A Non-Invasive Device for Early Diagnosis of Glaucoma and Other Ophthalmic Diseases

Ben Frankfort High Res (320x240)
Dr. Benjamin Frankfort, Department of Ophthalmology

Glaucoma is an ocular disorder characterized by progressive damage to the optic nerve, retinal ganglion cell loss, and, often, elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). It is the second leading cause of blindness, affecting nearly 3 million individuals in the United States and more than 60 million worldwide. Glaucoma is often treatable and vision loss likely preventable, but success is significantly contingent upon early diagnosis. Contrast sensitivity is one of the first aspects of human vision to be affected by glaucoma, which can potentially be used for early diagnosis. However, current testing methods are problematic due to their subjective nature, long testing time, the need for patient cooperation and concentration, and limitations related to lighting conditions. Thus, there is a significant need for improved methods of glaucoma detection, and especially objective functional assessment in the earliest stages of disease.

Dr. Benjamin J. Frankfort, assistant professor of Ophthalmology, and his team at Baylor College of Medicine are making significant breakthroughs in improving early detection of this prevalent and progressive disorder. The Frankfort group has recently developed a new device, the Human Optokinetic Contrast Detector (HOCD), which overcomes many of the limitations present in current devices/tests. The HOCD is an automated system, with a customizable software program, which primarily quantifies contrast sensitivity. It is rapid and objective and can be used under multiple lighting conditions. The HOCD has been validated in a glaucoma mouse model, and the prototype successfully measured contrast sensitivity of humans in multiple ages and visual acuities. As it measures contrast sensitivity, a key aspect of human vision, the HOCD is also a versatile device. It can potentially be used to: (1) diagnose glaucoma prior to other techniques, including clinical examination; (2) stage glaucoma; (3) diagnose/stage other ophthalmic diseases, including functional changes associated with diabetic retinopathy, cataract, neurologic disease with ocular manifestations, vision in preverbal or uncooperative children; and (4) assess contrast sensitivity or other visual function parameters in clinical trials or animal studies.

Dr. Frankfort was awarded funds from the John B. Carter, Jr. Technology Catalyst Fund administered by BLG to construct a HOCD prototype to be used in a pilot clinical trial. The prototype built primarily with off-the-shelf materials is being finalized for transfer to the clinic for testing.

Dr. Frankfort’s team has extensive experience and excellent expertise in glaucoma, clinical research, HOCD prototype design, software development and data analysis. They are dedicated to seeking out innovative solutions for the diagnosis of ophthalmic diseases and improving the ability of ophthalmologists to prevent, treat, and monitor those diseases.


  • Successfully validated prototype in both animals and humans.
  • Automated, objective test: no patient input required.
  • Usable in multiple lighting conditions.
  • Fast: Less than two minutes per eye.
  • Versatile: Potential to provide early diagnosis of glaucoma and other conditions.
  • Large market of interest: More than 18,000 ophthalmologists and 36,000 optometrists in the United States.
  • Research applications in animals including non-human primates.

Technology Status

The HOCD device and testing protocol are being optimized for clinical trial.

BLG Project Manager

Terese Rakow, Ph.D. (trakow@bcm.edu)