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  • Writer's pictureAlistair Bounds

Artificial Intelligence in healthcare

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics in healthcare right now.

There are many factors that are coming together to drive this; healthcare inflation consistently outpaces typical inflation, generating the need for scalable low-cost alternatives to traditional treatment pathways, computer power and data processing methods continue to advance, creating avenues for ever more sophisticated analyses, and both technology and healthcare have been prime pathways for venture capital to fund innovation, with healthcare AI a natural synergy of the two. Above all, there is a need for 21st-century technology for 21st-century healthcare.

The growth of healthcare AI is no more visible than in the field of ophthalmology. National ophthalmic databanks hold millions of retinal images, complete with accompanying diagnoses, including diseases that won't be diagnosed until years after the earliest patient images [1]. These databanks are rich picking grounds for AI scientists, and AI can already compete with the best ophthalmologists to diagnose many retinal conditions [2]. By looking through the eye, we can see much further than the retina, and AI looks here as well, with indicators of vascular disease, diabetes and many other chronic and systemic diseases found with the help of AI [3].

However, the jump from these disease indicators to clinically actionable pathways can't be met by AI alone. The factors that AI assesses and evaluates, such as arteriolar width or tortuosity, are sensitive to so many different biological processes and timescales [4] that they can lose specificity. A trend may be visible looking at 100,000 people, but translating that into a diagnosis or risk factor on an individual basis is very challenging. Is arteriolar area a sign of elevated circulatory mortality, or a product of smoking? Is venular tortuosity indicative of myocardial infarction or a result of high BMI? How can doctors translate these trends from theory to practice and diagnosis?

The answer lies in better assessments with better instruments.

This is the fundamental mission that Occuity holds, inventing the optical diagnostic technologies that will bring non-contact screening, diagnosis and monitoring to a broad range of chronic health conditions.

Rather than looking at correlations between disease and structural properties measured with traditional ophthalmic devices, we target the monitoring of specific manifestations of disease processes, for example, by measuring the build-up of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that play a central role in diabetic complications [5]. We are developing more advanced detection methods that can tell us more about these AGEs (e.g. looking at AGE fluorescence to distinguish between different forms of AGE, or measuring AGE build-up at different regions of the eye to distinguish between the sources of AGE), allowing us to distinguish between different disease processes and best helping doctors help patients.

Alistair Bounds, Senior Research Scientist

This work is being accelerated by a series of grants, including a £343k Innovate UK grant to build a prototype AGE reader for the lens. As well as a Future Leaders Fellowship grant of £1.5m, which was secured by Alistair Bounds who has been named amongst the UK's most promising science and research leaders. The project which will be led by Alistair will focus on developing ground-breaking fluorescence and blood flow measurement systems that will target the retina.

We are continuing to grow a world-class team of scientists and engineers and installing advanced laboratories. Last month we received a new state-of-the-art laser system that covers the entire visible spectrum producing ultrafast laser pulses less than a billionth of a second long, and a camera capable of 3,000 frames per second with MegaPixel images and a detection efficiency of up to 95%.

This equipment is at the forefront of photonics technology and is allowing Occuity to conduct cutting-edge research in our drive for 21st century healthcare.

These grants do more than fund research, funding a broad range of commercialisation activities including market assessment exercises, regulatory approvals costs, patenting fees and upskilling opportunities. Ultimately, these grants are about bringing forward commercially viable products that will transform patient care.

AI is only as good as the medical technologies that it builds on, and the advances in medical technology that Occuity is pioneering will be a powerful accelerator, bringing together 21st Century healthcare and 21st Century technology to alleviate some of humanity’s greatest healthcare challenges.

Occuity is currently recruiting for a number of engineering roles, if you’d like to join our team and develop revolutionary non-invasive screening and monitoring devices, check out our careers page.

Not interested in a career but still want to join our journey? We are currently crowdfunding on Seedrs allowing you to become a shareholder on Occuity for as little as £24.

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