Artificial Intelligence Could Help Diagnose Eye Conditions

Published in Insight - November/December 2018 Insight

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and collaborators at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have developed image analysis and machine learning tools to detect age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The condition is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50.

The APL team partnered with researchers at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute to automate AMD diagnosis. They discovered that machine diagnostics using deep learning can match the performance of human ophthalmologists.

"We’ve been able to show the feasibility of automated fine-grained classification of AMD severity that only highly trained ophthalmologists can achieve," says APL’s Philippe Burlina, a co-principal investigator for the project. “These techniques have the potential to provide individuals with automated grading of images to identify AMD, or monitor those individuals with earlier stages of AMD for the onset of the more advanced stages when prompt treatment may be indicated to reduce the risk of blindness.”

The team has also expanded its inquiry to characterize layers of the retina during optical coherence tomography (OCT), a noninvasive imaging technique that provides high-resolution, cross-sectional images of the retina, retinal nerve fiber layer and optic nerve head. Such techniques can be used to diagnose other retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, and they have the potential to help characterize vascular and neurodegenerative pathologies.

“We have started looking at other retinal diseases and how to combine images with other sources of information — demographics, lifestyle factors such as smoking, and sunlight exposure — to automatically perform prognosis and predict the probability for five-year risk of developing the advanced form of the disease,” says Burlina. “The end goal is to help clinicians and guide treatment.”

This year, the team expanded its collaboration to include scientists from the Singapore National Eye Centre and tested its algorithms on groups of people from Malaysia, India and China.

Read the full story on The Johns Hopkins University’s Hub: Hopkins researchers chart a course for AI-aided diagnosis of degenerative eye conditions.