Seeing the unseen
At DreamUp Vision, we have a mission : to screen diabetic people for diabetic retinopathy in its early stages, and prevent blindness.
It sounds great, right? But if you don’t work in Healthcare, these words could be a bit hazy, so I will explain them in simple terms!
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
After several years with this condition, it can affect the retina.
The retina is the layer of cells at the back of the eye that converts light into electrical signals. The signals are sent to the brain and the brain turns them into the images you see.
Here is a picture of the center of the retina, beautiful isn’t it ?
The yellow thing on the right is the optic nerve, and the brownish thing on the left is the macula.
The center of vision is located in your macula: when you look at something, the image will be actually seen there, and then transfered via the optic nerve to the brain.
Diabetes can affect all the retina, including the macula, this is what we call diabetic retinopathy.
People with all types of diabetes (type 1, type 2, and gestational) are at risk for diabetic retinopathy, and risk increases the longer a person has diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually have no symptoms. The disease often progresses unnoticed until it affects vision. But when it progresses, vision lost to diabetic retinopathy can sometimes be irreversible.
However, early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent.
The screening test involves taking photographs of your retina. It is a quick and painless test. But it has to be done every year for your entire life. Photographs are taken by specialized technicians, and then read (in most countries across the globe) by ophthalmologists.
Screening is broken
The number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.
There are projected to be 642 million people with diabetes in 2040, but the number of ophthalmologists in practice should improve by only 2%. It means that 3 millions diabetic patients should be screened each day! The way we do screening today won’t be sufficient in the near future.
Allowing technicians to read the images is an option, but it takes time to train them well, and it is expensive in the long term. Plus it is an extremely repetitive job.
These days we live in the era of Artificial Intelligence revolution via developments done in the field of deep learning algorithms. Computers have learned to recognize objects in pictures, write like humans, and are able to read emotions in our faces. You feed the deep learning algorithm with labeled datas, and then it learns by itself what is the best simplified representation of the data and what decision to take. This allows to outperform the more traditional machine learning methods in performance, and to address issues that were not available to the machine before.
At DreamUp Vision, we have decided to solve the diabetic retinopathy screening problem with Deep learning. We know that to have a safe and secure screening technique, it has to be highly sensitive. Our solution answers this problem. It allows a fast and precise answer, and can be deployed everywhere, with a web and a mobile application.
We are currently looking to work with ophthalmologists around the world, interested in our solution, to collect more datas, and to test the performances of our algorithm in real life.
If you want to be a part of this great challenge, contact us at email@example.com.
About the Author :
Edouard Colas is an Ophthalmologist in Paris, France, and the Chief Medical Officer at DreamUp Vision.