Alphabet Inc's artificial intelligence arm DeepMind has developed a medical device to predict eye diseases even before the symptoms set in, thereby preventing sight loss before it occurs, a blog post by the AI firm stated.
Alphabet is the parent company of search giant Google.
The development is the second phase of DeepMind’s joint research partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.
The research is focussed on two types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the most common eye diseases, with 170 million sufferers worldwide. According to the blog post, the ‘dry’ form is relatively common among those over 65, and often only causes mild sight loss.
However, the blog post said that about 15% of patients with dry AMD go on to develop the more serious form of the disease called ‘wet’ AMD, which can cause permanent sight loss. Currently, ophthalmologists diagnose wet AMD by analysing highly detailed 3D scans of the back of the eye, called OCT scans, it added.
The company has collaborated with the clinicians at Moorfields Eye Hospital to analyse de-identified scans of up to 7,000 patients at the hospital, who had previously received treatment in one eye for wet AMD, to try to predict deterioration in the other, seemingly healthy eye.
DeepMind said that predicting potential indicators of the disease is a much more complicated and computationally intense task than identifying known existing symptoms. It is similarly working on predicting breast cancer as well.
Google is also trying to use deep learning techniques on one of its computer vision engines to try and assess cardiovascular risk factors, with heart attacks and strokes continuing to be among the top public health issues.
Founded in 2010, DeepMind is a research organisation that uses artificial intelligence and its application for positive impact. The London-based company was acquired by Alphabet in 2014 for $600 million. In 2016, DeepMind's AlphaGo programme beat the world champion in the strategy board game Go.