Siamak Yousefi, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and the Department of Genetics, Genomics, and Informatics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, was awarded an exploratory grant of $499,229 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use artificial intelligence as a tool to detect glaucoma early or in the beginning of its progression.
Glaucoma is a group of disorders that damages the optic nerve and can result in vision loss and complete blindness. It is the second-leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide and more than 3 million Americans are living with the disease. Routine eye exams are necessary for an accurate diagnosis and to prevent eye nerve damage. However, Yousefi believes there is one important factor keeping many from seeking proper treatment.
"Half of the people who suffer from glaucoma don't even know they have the disease because it's very hard to detect. There are no symptoms and the brain will adapt to some part of the vision loss," Yousefi said. "This can happen all the way to early, and in some patients, the moderate stages of the disease."
To address this problem, Yousefi has partnered with Tobias Elze, PhD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School to develop a joint artificial intelligence algorithm. The algorithm is a non-invasive procedure that will process retinal images to determine if a patient is at risk for glaucoma or in the early stages of the disease. The project is being funded for two years.