Performing a complete eye examination for an infant is difficult for the medical professional. This is partially because infants move around so much. The solution is a new app for smartphones. While parents are taking photos of their kids, they are able to look for signs that a serious eye disease may be developing. The idea began with a father determined to stop the devastation of lost vision by detecting eye disease during the earliest stages. This five-year quest began when Bryan Shaw’s son lost one of his eyes due to cancer.
Noah Shaw was diagnosed with retinoblastoma by physicians when he was four months old. The doctor had to shine a light into the infant’s eyes to make a diagnosis. The reflection the doctor saw from the back of Noah’s eyeball was pale. This indicated tumors were present. His father is a scientist. Bryan started wondering if the same pale reflection the doctor saw could be seen in the photos Noah’s mother was always taking of their son. In one of the pictures that were taken shortly after the birth of his son, he saw the reflection the doctors referred to as white eye.
This was when Bryan realized the pictures of his son at twelve days old revealed the same ultimate diagnosis as the doctors made. Bryan is a chemist as opposed to a computer scientist or an eye doctor. Despite this, he decided he could create software enabling him to scan photographs of his son for any sign of the pale reflection. Bryan had already stated if there had been any software available advising him to check out his son’s eyes, the diagnosis would have been a lot faster. This meant the tumors would most likely have been a little smaller when his son was initially diagnosed.
Bryan also realized his son would have had fewer tumors when he was diagnosed. Thanks to the vision of Bryan Shaw, this software now exists. Bryan teamed up with the colleagues he had in Waco, Texas at Baylor University. He called the app he created Cradle. The app can detect white eye through the use of artificial intelligence. This is a clear sign of numerous different and serious eye diseases including Coats’ disease, pediatric cataracts and retinoblastoma. Bryan analyzed the pictures of forty children to test his app.
Of the 50,000 pictures of the children, fifty percent received a diagnosis of some type of eye disease or eye cancer. There were no signs of eye disease in the other half of the children. The app was created to scan pictures on your phone to locate the ones showing any signs of leukocoria. The upper right side of the app magnifies the view of the leukocoric pupil. This is lighter in appearance than the black of a healthy pupil. According to Bryan, the average detection of the app showed white eye in photos taken 1.3 years prior to a diagnosis being made.
This means the app can provide parents with a much earlier alert that there may be something wrong with their child’s eyes. This gives them the opportunity to have their kids checked by a physician much sooner. The Science Advances journal published all of the results. Bryan did not create a perfect app. The app can fail to detect white eye when it is present or show the condition when it is not really there. The biggest issue is the latter. The false positives only happen in less than one percent of all cases. Sean Donahue is an ophthalmologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
He stated these results were not good enough. Sean explained that approximately four million children are born every year in the United States. The one percent false positive means tens of thousands of kids would be unnecessarily visiting their physician’s office. Despite this, Sean believes the app has a lot of promise. He is also excited about the new technology. He believes this technology will be used in the future for screening numerous different diseases.
One of the specialists for eye cancer at the Health and Sciences University in Oregon is Alison Skalet. She believes the app shows a lot of promise as well. She said using the new technology currently available makes a great deal of sense. She believes the app will consistently become more accurate as time passes because artificial intelligence will continue to improve. According to Bryan, this is exactly what he would like to see happen. It is important to stay up to date on your health.
Bryan believes individuals with photos of kids diagnosed with leukocoria need to be sent to him so the app can be trained to recognize white eye better. He simply stated he required more photos. This is especially true of children in Asia and Africa. This will increase the global relevance of the app. Bryan hopes this will save the vision of many more children.