Simple Eye Test Uses AI To Predict Death From a Heart Condition

A simple eye test that predicts death from cardiovascular disease has been developed by British scientists. It combines artificial intelligence (AI) with scans of the retina – a membrane at the back of peepers that contains light sensitive cells. The technique could lead to a screening programme – enabling drugs and lifestyle changes to be prescribed decades before symptoms emerge. Lead author Professor Alicja Regina Rudnicka, of St George’s University of London, said the test is inexpensive, accessible and non-invasive. People at risk of stroke, heart attack and other circulatory conditions could undergo RV (artificial intelligence enabled retinal vasculometry) during routine visits to the optician.

Prof Rudnicka said: “It has the potential for reaching a higher proportion of the population in the community because of ‘high street’ availability. “RV offers an alternative predictive biomarker to traditional risk-scores for vascular health – without the need for blood sampling or blood pressure measurement. “It is highly likely to help prolong disease-free status in an ever-aging population with increasing comorbidities, and assist with minimising healthcare costs associated with lifelong vascular diseases.”

An algorithm called QUARTZ was developed based on retinal images from tens of thousands of Britons aged 40 to 69. It focused on the width, area and curvature, or tortuosity, of tiny blood vessels called arterioles and venules. The performance of QUARTZ was compared with the widely used Framingham Risk Scores framework – both separately and jointly.

The health of all the participants was tracked for an average of seven to nine years, during which time there were 327 and 201 circulatory disease deaths among 64,144 UK Biobank and 5,862 EPIC-Norfolk participants respectively. In men, arteriolar and venular width, tortuosity, and width variation emerged as important predictors of death from circulatory disease. In women, arteriolar and venular area and width and venular tortuosity and width variation contributed to risk prediction.

The predictive impact of retinal vasculature on circulatory disease death interacted with smoking, drugs to treat high blood pressure, and previous heart attacks. Overall, these predictive models, based on age, smoking, medical history and retinal vasculature, captured between half and two-thirds of circulatory disease deaths in those most at risk.

Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/

Hidden Signs in Your Retina Indicate Alzheimer’s Decades Before Symptoms

Alzheimer’s is an insidious brain disease marked by a slow mental decline that can develop unnoticed for decades before symptoms arise, but hidden signs of the condition might exist much sooner. A simple eye test may make diagnosing the earliest stages of ‘diseases of old age’ possible when people are much younger, University of Otago  researchers in New Zeland hope.

Parts of our retina have previously been proposed as biomarkers for Alzheimer’s, but researchers from Otago’s Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit have been investigating the retina’s potential to indicate cognitive change earlier in life.

Study lead Dr Ashleigh Barrett-Young says diseases of old age, such as Alzheimer’s, are usually diagnosed when people start forgetting things or acting out of character.

This is often when the disease is quite far along. Early detection is possible through MRI or other brain imaging, but this is expensive and impractical for most.

“In the near future, it’s hoped that artificial intelligence will be able to take an image of a person’s retina and determine whether that person is at risk for Alzheimer’s long before they begin showing symptoms, and when there is a possibility of treatment to mitigate the symptoms,” she says.

The study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, analysed data from 865 Dunedin Study participants looking specifically at the retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL) and ganglion cell layer (GCL) at age 45.

Source: https://www.otago.ac.nz/