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Google takes aim at blindness with NHS research deal

DeepMind Health partners with Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Diabetic retinopathy 

Google's artificial intelligence unit has formed a pact with a London hospital to research the leading cause of blindness in the UK.

It's the first medical research project for DeepMind Health, which will partner with the Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on diabetic retinopathy (pictured) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

DeepMind and Moorfields will investigate how machine learning can help analyse digital eye scans more swiftly than healthcare professionals, something traditional computer analysis tools have so far had mixed success with.

To do this Moorfields will provide Google with access to a dataset of around one million anonymised eye scans and some related anonymous information about eye condition and disease management.

The tech company was keen to stress that the NHS will still own the information and that it won't be possible to identify any individual patients from the scans.

The company said it has submitted its research protocol for open peer review and will submit any results from this research to peer-reviewed journals.

The two conditions targeted by the research affect over 625,000 people in the UK and diabetes - incidence of which is on the rise - is already the leading cause of blindness in people of working age. Meanwhile, AMD is the most common cause of blindness in the country and responsible for sight loss in nearly 200 people every day.

Professor Sir Peng Tee Khaw is director of the National Institute for Health Research Specialist Biomedical Research Centre in Ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

He said: "Our research with DeepMind has the potential to revolutionise 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. 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."

Formed in February, London-based DeepMind Health aims to build tools to support clinicians and patients and “provide the best possible care” and was acquired by Google in 2014, having been formed in 2010 by a computer science team from.

Its AI technology has had notable success playing the Chinese game of Go against human players - echoing the path taken by IBM for its supercomputer Watson, which beat former champions of the US game show Jeopardy.

7th July 2016

From: Research

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