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AI screening tools use eyes to screen for chronic kidney disease and assess biological health

SINGAPORE — Scientists at the Singapore Eye Research Institute (Seri) have developed two artificial intelligence (AI) screening tools that use the eyes to assess kidney health and biological age.

The tools, dubbed RetiKid and RetiAge, use AI-based deep learning algorithms on scans of patients’ retinas – the light-sensitive rear part of the eye, offering a non-invasive and efficient approach to screening.

This can help alert patients to health issues that may be at an early stage.

RetiKid screens patients with chronic kidney disease and works by scanning blood vessels in the eye, according to Associate Professor Charumathi Sabanayagam, who is deputy head of Seri’s Ocular Epidemiology Research Group.

Currently, a patient must undergo a blood test to measure the level of creatinine – a type of waste product produced by the muscles – and a urine test for albumin to check for chronic kidney disease.

Professor Assoc Charumathi, who is also principal investigator of the RetiKid study, said: “The retina and the kidneys share a close biological relationship. While the blood vessels in the kidneys cannot be examined easily, the blood vessels in the retina can be seen directly using the digital retina. photography.

“Thus, blood vessel problems in the retina could provide clues to changes in kidney blood vessels in people with and without diabetes.”

RetiAge, which was developed by Professor Cheng Ching-Yu, head of Seri’s Ocular Epidemiology Research Group and Data Science Research Platform, uses similar information to assess a patient’s biological age, which measures the aging of bodily functions, organs and cells.

Professor Cheng said: “Your biological age tells you about your overall health and how the aging process has affected your body.

“The blood vessels in the retina are also indicative of the aging process and the overall health of its circulatory system and even the brain. Using digital technology on retinal images, we can predict a person’s biological age and , therefore, his risk of systemic diseases and lifespan.”

He added that the current process for determining biological age involves examining structural changes in a patient’s DNA, a laboratory-intensive process that can take up to a day.

But with RetiAge, it only takes about 20 minutes, Professor Cheng said.

RetiKid also reduces the time needed to diagnose chronic kidney disease to less than an hour. Currently, patients must wait for the results after undergoing the blood test.