The rod photoreceptors are implicated in a number of devastating retinal diseases. However, routine imaging of these cells has remained elusive, even with the advent of adaptive optics imaging. Here, we present the first in vivo images of the contiguous rod photoreceptor mosaic in nine healthy human subjects. The images were collected with three different confocal adaptive optics scanning ophthalmoscopes at two different institutions, using 680 and 775 nm superluminescent diodes for illumination. Estimates of photoreceptor density and rod:cone ratios in the 5°-15° retinal eccentricity range are consistent with histological findings, confirming our ability to resolve the rod mosaic by averaging multiple registered images, without the need for additional image processing. In one subject, we were able to identify the emergence of the first rods at approximately 190 μm from the foveal center, in agreement with previous histological studies. The rod and cone photoreceptor mosaics appear in focus at different retinal depths, with the rod mosaic best focus (i.e., brightest and sharpest) being at least 10 μm shallower than the cones at retinal eccentricities larger than 8°. This study represents an important step in bringing high-resolution imaging to bear on the study of rod disorders.
Keywords: (110.1080) Active or adaptive optics; (170.1610) Clinical applications; (170.3880) Medical and biological imaging; (170.4470) Ophthalmology; (330.5310) Vision; photoreceptors.