Galucoma Progression is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness in the world. It is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. Consequently, the disease causes death of cells in the retina leading to a complete loss of eyesight.
Galucoma affects around 60 million people every year. Furthermore, health experts have predicted that as the global population ages, the number can further double by the year 2040.
Notably, its most common type, open-angle glaucoma usually shows no symptoms other than slow vision loss. On the other hand, angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency with symptoms including nausea and eye pain with sudden visual disturbance.
AI to assist in Galucoma Progession diagnosis
Remarkably, researcher scholars may have found a ray of hope in their latest AI supported test for the disease. Researchers have developed a new test which aims to identify glaucoma patients who are at a greater risk of rapid progression to blindness.
The study has recently been published in the journal, ‘Expert Review of Molecular Diagnostics’. It has claimed that the new test can detect glaucoma progression up to 18 months earlier than the current gold standard method.
Research Scholars from Imperial College London have explained that the treatment is most successful when it is provided at an early stage of the disease. Therefore, the AI supported test can help many to save their eyesight through its early diagnosis and prediction for the cause of progression.
The AI assisted test has been termed as DARC, Detection of Apoptosing Retinal Cells. It involves injecting a fluorescent dye into the bloodstream that attaches itself to retinal cells. It then illuminates retinal cells those that are in the process of apoptosis which is a form of programmed cell death.
In the process, the damaged cells appear as bright white which are subsequently calculated to determine the DARC count. The more the bright white damaged cells, higher is the DARC count.
However, ophthalmologists can often disagree while evaluating the same scans. Thus, researchers have included an AI algorithm into the process for more efficient results and diagnostics.
In the second phase of DARC’s clinical trial, artificial intelligence was employed to assess 20 glaucoma patients along with 40 healthy control subjects. After training it on healthy control subjects, it was tested on glaucoma patients. All the subjects were followed up for 18 months after the trial to note if their eye health had deteriorated.
Strikingly, each patient with a DARC count above the certain threshold was eventually found to be having a progressive glaucoma at the follow-up. Thus, using the new AI incorporated test, research team was able to accurately predict the progressive glaucomatous damage 18 months before the gold standard OCT retinal imaging technology.