Using artificial intelligence to detect Alzheimer’s disease in the retina

Dr Pearse Keane, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology:

“My research is looking into the link between neurodegenerative conditions and sight loss. It will use AI to analyse millions of retinal images and design an early diagnostic technique, which would be a huge step forward in the early treatment of people with neurogenerative conditions.”

Pearse Keane from UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Pearse Keane from UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

What is the aim of this project?

Fight for Sight have funded Dr Pearse Keane from UCL who aims to gain a better understanding about why people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s have problems with their vision.

He and his team of researchers will look for patterns in the eye scans to see how the eye changes as neurodegenerative diseases progress.

Why is this research needed?

Neurodegenerative diseases are a group of conditions, which affects the cells in the brain. During the course of these diseases, connections between the nerve cells are lost and eventually these cells die and brain tissue is lost.

Many people with neurodegenerative diseases have problems with their vision. The eye and the brain contain many of the same types of cells and tissues which means that they degenerate in a similar way.

Numerous studies have shown that changes occur in the eyes of patients a number of years prior to the brain showing any signs of change.

What method will researchers use?

Dr Pearse Keane in collaboration with Moorfields are using artificial intelligence to analyse a database of over 2 million eye scans from approximately 300,000 patients. They aim to identify features in eye scans which are common to people who have developed a neurodegenerative disease but absent in the scans of those who have not.


How will this research impact patients?

The study will help researchers better understand why patients with neurodegenerative diseases have problems with their vision. The identification of patterns in the eye scans could help diagnose patients with neurodegenerative diseases from simple eye scans in the future.

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