U.K. hospital partnering with Google’s DeepMind to use AI in scanning for eye diseases

Moorfields Eye Hospital, London

Alphabet-owned Google DeepMind is partnering with the U.K.’s Moorfields Eye Hospital in an effort to use artificial intelligence to identify people prone to losing their sight as a result of an eye disease.

Under the partnership, Moorfields will apply DeepMind’s algorithms to see if they can spot early signs of age-related macular degeneration and sight loss that occur as a result of diabetes. The National Health Service hospital will apply the technology to one million anonymous optical coherence tomography scans in an effort to identify eye conditions that human eye care experts might miss.

It’s estimated that about 2 million people in the U.K. have some form of sight loss, and about 360,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted. Currently, eye health professionals use digital scans of the eye to diagnose and determine the correct treatment for common eye conditions, which can be complicated and take time.

"Our research with DeepMind has the potential to revolutionize the way professionals carry out eye tests and could lead to earlier detection and treatment of common eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration,” Sir Peng Tee Khaw, director of the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre in Ophthalmology at Moorfields, said. “With sight loss predicted to double by the year 2050 it is vital we explore the use of cutting-edge technology to prevent eye disease.”

DeepMind’s algorithms are known as machine learning algorithms because they can learn through training without being explicitly programmed.

DeepMind, which is London-based, is also piloting two apps at area hospitals under its just-launched division, DeepMind Health. The launch of the division mirrors IBM's April decision to create a dedicated healthcare entity within its artificial intelligence platform, dubbed IBM Watson Health.

- here’s the Moorfields release
- check out Bloomberg’s take

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