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Eye Spy When You May Die: Scientists Try Using Retina Scan to Predict Risk of Death

CC0 / / Eye
 Eye - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.01.2022
In their study, the researchers broached the possibility of using retinal image as “a screening tool for risk stratification and delivery of tailored interventions.”
A team of scientists has established that one day it may be possible to determine whether a person faces a risk of early death simply by scanning their retina.
Detailing their findings in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, the researchers explored the prospect of using the gap between retina’s age – predicted by deep learning – and a person’s chronological age, to help gauge mortality risk.
“Our findings indicate that retinal age gap might be a potential biomarker of ageing that is closely related to risk of mortality, implying the potential of retinal image as a screening tool for risk stratification and delivery of tailored interventions,” the researchers stated in the abstract of their study.
According to Science Alert, the machine learning algorithm employed by the team was accurate enough to “predict the age of nearly 47,000 middle-aged and elderly adults in the United Kingdom within a bracket of 3.5 years."
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As the media outlet notes, some 1,871 of these individuals have died in about over a decade since said retina images were taken, and it appears that those with “older-looking retinas” were more likely to perish.
"The significant association between retinal age gap and non-cardiovascular/non-cancer mortality, together with the growing evidence of the link between eye and brain, may support the notion that the retina is the 'window' of neurological diseases," the study’s authors suggested.
They were unable, however, to establish a link between retinal health and dementia, since only 20 people in their research died due to that condition, the media outlet points out.
"This body of work supports the hypothesis that the retina plays an important role in the aging process and is sensitive to the cumulative damages of aging which increase the mortality risk," the researchers stated.
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