A revolutionary portable device is causing a great deal of excitement in the global eye care community. Called the "Arclight," researchers believe this tiny scanner could greatly reduce the number of blind patients in developing countries.
Members of Scotland's prestigious University of St. Andrews were behind the research and development of the Arclight. This totally solar-powered ophthalmoscope was designed to be cheap, energy efficient, and easy to use for doctors working in Third World countries.
Just because this device is cheap, however, doesn't mean it isn't effective. In a study conducted at London's International Centre for Eye Health, researchers found that the Arclight performed just as well as "professional" ophthalmoscopes. Most of the professional ophthalmoscopes used in this survey cost at least 100 times more than the Arclight.
Researchers at the University of St. Andrews told reporters that their ophthalmoscope could greatly help doctors make instant diagnoses for various serious eye care conditions. Just a few conditions the Arclight can easily detect include cataracts, glaucoma, and trachoma. These three diseases alone account for a majority of blindness cases in the developing world.
The University of St. Andrews has teamed up with the Fred Hollows Foundation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to bring brand new Arclights to needy countries. These three organizations have already given hospitals in Malawi, Fiji, Kenya, and Ethiopia thousands of Arclights.
Although the research and development of the Arclight was centered in the University of St. Andrews, professors from many other U.K. institutions helped St. Andrews' team. Dr. Andrew Blaikie, a leader on the Arclight project at St. Andrews, told reporters that prominent scientists from both University College London and the University of Leicester also helped develop this wonderful product.
Although medical workers already hail the invention of the Arclight, the staff at St. Andrews believes it can do more to make their product even better. The staff at St. Andrews hopes to add internal memory into the next iteration of the Arclight, as well as including extensive teaching material and motion capture cameras.
The Arclight took many years to develop, but the researchers say all of their hard work was worth it in the end. St. Andrews' professors thanked the university's global health team for keeping them focused on their goal and helping provide crucial information on the needs of eye care hospitals in the developing world.
In addition to helping millions of people in the developing world, the Arclight could do a great deal of good in the developed world. Professor David Harrison, who works in St. Andrews' medical school, said that the staff at the university will distribute Arclights to all their medical students. He believes this "versatile and clever instrument" will help medical students immensely in their clinical training practice.
In addition to its stellar academics, the University of St. Andrews is perhaps best known today for two of its recent graduates: Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. The University of St. Andrews was founded in 1413, which makes it the oldest university in Scotland.