A Google-affiliated start-up has just developed an algorithm capable of diagnosing heart disease simply by scanning and analyzing a patient’s retina.
Verily is a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. This San Francisco-based company specializes in life sciences, health care and biotechnology research. But the latest innovation of the company is a tool whose purpose is to prevent heart attacks in humans, as indicated by the content of a study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering on February 19, 2018.
The researchers are very optimistic about the application of their new software to the medical field. The latter takes a picture of the eye via a retinograph and is able to assess the age of a patient, sex, whether he is a smoker or not, or the level of his blood pressure. Other data helping to determine cardiovascular risks are also available, according to the researchers.
So far, the algorithm has been tested on 284,335 people and the success rate is 70%. These numbers are encouraging, as this rate is only slightly lower than the results obtained through a blood test (72%). Thus, the software could represent an interesting alternative to blood tests.
For some specialists interviewed by The Verge, the initiative seems laudable. Luke Oakden-Rayner, research physician at the University of Adelaide (Australia) says Verily’s researchers “do not replace doctors, but extend the range of possibilities,” and cardiologist Alun Hughes says the research is credible, because according to him, “it is far from being the first time that the retina has been analyzed to predict this kind of risk”.
Though the algorithm offers hope, the path to standardization is till very long.