Something as minimally invasive and painless as a scan of the human eyeball could one day help doctors identify those who are most at risk of premature death, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
The key is in the retina
Scientists say that the retina acts as a “window” that allows doctors to take a deeper look at a patient’s health . And it is that, aging has an organismal impact, it is clear, but the fact that two people are the same age does not mean that they are physically decaying at the same rate. The retina is a predictor of risk of death, according to the results of this work.
The longitudinal study found that the difference between the biological age of the retina (the sensory membrane at the back of the eyeball responsible for vision) and a person’s chronological age is related to their risk of death. This “retinal age gap” could be used as a screening tool for early diagnosis and treatment of various life-threatening diseases.
An early sign of disease may be damage to the blood vessels in the retina: this could indicate high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, nerve damage caused by diabetes, glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration (and even some types of macular degeneration). Of cancer).
The greater the retinal age gap, the greater the risk of premature death
As if this were not enough, our eyes, specifically the retina, can indicate a person’s “biological age” , a measure influenced by lifestyle and other health factors.
Using an artificial intelligence algorithm trained to predict the age of the retina using nearly 19,000 fundus scans , they found that the program’s estimates were accurate. Thus, to examine the relationship between mortality and the “gap retinal age” (the difference between chronological age and biological) in a sample of 35,917 participants (drawn from the Biobank UK) followed for 11 years, Scientists found an unequivocal correlation between having a larger retinal age gap and an increased risk of death.
During the 11 years that the study lasted, 1,800 (5%) of the participants died. Most died from cancer, dementia or heart disease.
“The retina offers a unique and accessible ‘window’ to assess the underlying pathological processes of systemic vascular and neurological diseases that are associated with increased mortality risk,” the study authors wrote. “This hypothesis is supported by previous studies, which suggested that retinal images contain information on cardiovascular risk factors, chronic kidney disease, and systemic biomarkers.”
Referencia: “Retinal age gap as a predictive biomarker for mortality risk” by Zhuoting Zhu, Danli Shi, Peng Guankai, Zachary Tan, Xianwen Shang, Wenyi Hu, Huan Liao, Xueli Zhang, Yu Huang, Honghua Yu, Wei Meng, Wei Wang , Zongyuan Ge, Xiaohong Yang and Mingguang He, 18 January 2022, British Journal of Ophthalmology.