Aritificial intelligence used to develop an early warning system for AMD

Researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can help predict whether people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will develop the more serious form of the condition in their ‘good eye’. This is part of our wider, ongoing partnership with DeepMind and Google Health.

AMD involves damage to the macula, the central part of the retina at the back of the eye. AMD causes loss of central vision, affecting the ability to read, drive, watch television, recognise faces, and many other activities of daily living. It is very common that patients develop wet AMD in one eye and start receiving treatment, before later developing it in their other eye.

Macular degeneration mainly affects central vision, causing “blind spots” directly ahead (Macular Society).

 

The AI system developed by Moorfields, researchers from DeepMind, and Google Health, may allow closer monitoring of the “good eye” in patients at high risk, or even guide use of preventative treatments in the future.

Pearse Keane, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said:

“Patients who have lost vision from wet AMD are often particularly worried that their “good eye” will become affected and, as a result, that they will become blind. We hope that this AI system can be used as an early warning system for this condition and thus help preserve sight.”

“We are already beginning to think about how this will let us plan clinical trials of preventative therapies – for example, by treating eyes at high risk earlier.”

“With this work, we haven’t solved AMD, but we believe we have found another big piece of the puzzle.”

Reena Chopra, research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said:

“We found that the ophthalmologists and optometrists in our study had some intuition into which eyes will progress to wet AMD. The AI was able to outperform them, indicating there are signals within OCT scans that only the AI can detect. This unlocks new areas of research into a disease where there are still many unanswered questions about how it develops.”

Source:

Read the paper in Nature Medicine.

Read the Google Health blog and DeepMind technical blog.


World’s first spherical artificial eye has 3D retina

 

An international team led by scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has recently developed the world’s first 3D artificial eye with capabilities better than existing bionic eyes and in some cases, even exceed those of the human eyes, bringing vision to humanoid robots and new hope to patients with visual impairment.

Scientists have spent decades trying to replicate the structure and clarity of a biological eye, but vision provided by existing prosthetic eyes — largely in the form of spectacles attached with external cables, are still in poor resolution with 2D flat image sensors. The Electrochemical Eye (EC-Eye) developed at HKUST, however, not only replicates the structure of a natural eye for the first time, but may actually offer sharper vision than a human eye in the future, with extra functions such as the ability to detect infrared radiation in darkness.

The key feature allowing such breakthroughs is a 3D artificial retina — made of an array of nanowire light sensors which mimic the photoreceptors in human retinas. Developed by Prof. FAN Zhiyong and Dr. GU Leilei from the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering at HKUST, the team connected the nanowire light sensors to a bundle of liquid-metal wires serving as nerves behind the human-made hemispherical retina during the experiment, and successfully replicated the visual signal transmission to reflect what the eye sees onto the computer screen.

In the future, those nanowire light sensors could be directly connected to the nerves of the visually impaired patients. Unlike in a human eye where bundles of optic nerve fibers (for signal transmission) need to route through the retina via a pore — from the front side of the retina to the backside (thus creating a blind spot in human vision) before reaching the brain; the light sensors that now scatters across the entire human-made retina could each feed signals through its own liquid-metal wire at the back, thereby eliminating the blind spot issue as they do not have to route through a single spot.

Apart from that, as nanowires have even higher density than photoreceptors in human retina, the artificial retina can thus receive more light signals and potentially attain a higher image resolution than human retina — if the back contacts to individual nanowires are made in the future. With different materials used to boost the sensors’ sensitivity and spectral range, the artificial eye may also achieve other functions such as night vision.

“I have always been a big fan of science fiction, and I believe many technologies featured in stories such as those of intergalactic travel, will one day become reality. However, regardless of image resolution, angle of views or user-friendliness, the current bionic eyes are still of no match to their natural human counterpart. A new technology to address these problems is in urgent need, and it gives me a strong motivation to start this unconventional project,” said Prof. Fan, whose team has spent nine years to complete the current study from idea inception.

The team collaborated with the University of California, Berkeley on this project and their findings were recently published in the journal Nature.

“In the next step, we plan to further improve the performance, stability and biocompatibility of our device. For prosthesis application, we look forward to collaborating with medical research experts who have the relevant expertise on optometry and ocular prosthesis,” Prof. Fan added.

The working principle of the artificial eye involves an electrochemical process which is adopted from a type of solar cell. In principle, each photo sensor on the artificial retina can serve as a nanoscale solar cell. With further modification, the EC-Eye can be a self-powered image sensor, so there is no need for external power source nor circuitry when used for ocular prosthesis, which will be much more user-friendly as compared with the current technology.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Leilei Gu, Swapnadeep Poddar, Yuanjing Lin, Zhenghao Long, Daquan Zhang, Qianpeng Zhang, Lei Shu, Xiao Qiu, Matthew Kam, Ali Javey, Zhiyong Fan. A biomimetic eye with a hemispherical perovskite nanowire array retina. Nature, 2020; 581 (7808): 278 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2285-x

<www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200610102726.htm>


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After blindness, the adult brain can learn to see again

More than 40 million people worldwide are blind, and many of them reach this condition after many years of slow and progressive retinal degeneration. The development of sophisticated prostheses or new light-responsive elements, aiming to replace the disrupted retinal function and to feed restored visual signals to the brain, has provided new hope. However, very little is known about whether the brain of blind people retains residual capacity to process restored or artificial visual inputs. A new study published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Elisa Castaldi and Maria Concetta Morrone from the University of Pisa, Italy, and colleagues investigates the brain’s capability to process visual information after many years of total blindness, by studying patients affected by Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary illness of the retina that gradually leads to complete blindness.

Fundus of the patient’s eye implanted with Argus II Retinal 98 Prosthesis, taken soon after the surgery Image Credit: Castaldi E, Cicchini GM, Cinelli L, Biagi L, Rizzo S, Morrone MC (2016)

 

The perceptual and brain responses of a group of patients were assessed before and after the implantation of a prosthetic implant that senses visual signals and transmits them to the brain by stimulating axons of retinal ganglion cells. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers found that patients learned to recognize unusual visual stimuli, such as flashes of light, and that this ability correlated with increased brain activity. However, this change in brain activity, observed at both the thalamic and cortical level, took extensive training over a long period of time to become established: the more the patient practiced, the more their brain responded to visual stimuli, and the better they perceived the visual stimuli using the implant. In other words, the brain needs to learn to see again.

The results are important as they show that after the implantation of a prosthetic device the brain undergoes plastic changes to re-learn how to make use of the new artificial and probably aberrant visual signals. They demonstrate a residual plasticity of the sensory circuitry of the adult brain after many years of deprivation, which can be exploited in the development of new prosthetic implants.

Article: Visual BOLD Response in Late Blind Subjects with Argus II Retinal Prosthesis, Castaldi E, Cicchini GM, Cinelli L, Biagi L, Rizzo S, Morrone MC, PLOS Biology, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002569,