High-tech tie-up to detect eye diseases

SINGAPORE/JAPAN - Scientists in Singapore have teamed up with a Japanese firm to develop "intelligent" technology to aid detection of eye diseases. The Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R) and Topcon Corp hope to pinpoint myopia, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) more quickly.

They also aim to increase the accuracy of such diagnoses - for instance, by enabling machines to automatically analyse eye images.

I2R - which comes under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) - has set up a joint laboratory with Topcon at the Fusionopolis research and development complex. Topcon makes eye-related instruments sold worldwide.

Singapore has one of the highest rates of myopia globally. Eight in 10 people aged 18 or over suffer from shortsightedness, which makes distant objects look blurry. Spectacles are required to correct the issue. Glaucoma, a condition caused by damage to the optic nerve, accounts for 40 per cent of cases of blindness here.

AMD, which causes the middle of the retina to deteriorate, can cause distorted vision. One in four people over 60 is estimated to suffer from it.

The tie-up will allow screening of these eye diseases to be done during routine eye checks at hospitals or even optical shops, I2R said in a statement yesterday. It said the technology could be embedded into eye-screening machines.

In addition, a data system will be developed that will enable doctors and patients to easily tap resources such as software programs for their work.

Said I2R's executive director, Dr Tan Geok Leong: "Early detection of eye diseases could reduce health-care costs and reduce suffering for patients."

chpoon@sph.com.sg


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