By examining the tiny vessels inside a person’s eyes, doctors may one day be able to predict that person’s risk of early death, according to a new study.
Although the risk of disease and early death generally increases with age, this risk can vary slightly between individuals of the same age, According to the statement. This difference can be explained by the “biological age” of a person, which, unlike chronological age, is determined individually for each person, depending on several health factors.
Previous studies have explored several biomarkers in the body that may be able to determine a person’s biological age, including specific genes and cognitive abilities, blood pressure And immune system Job, Live Science previously reported.
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Previous research has shown the retina, the light-sensitive layers of nerve tissue at the back of the eye, as a potential indicator of a person’s biological age, as it can provide clues about disease risk. “The retina provides a unique, accessible window for assessing the pathological processes underlying vascular and nervous system diseases associated with increased risk of death,” the authors wrote in the study, published Jan. 18 in the Official Gazette. British Journal of Ophthalmology.
In the new study, researchers turned to a deep learning technology that can predict a person’s risk of death by analyzing the biological age of the retina.
Their deep learning model, a type of machine learning and artificial intelligence that is designed for learning similar to the human brain, analyzed more than 80,000 images of the fundus – the inner back surface of the eye that includes the retina. They obtained the images from around 47,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69, which were stored in the UK’s Biobank, a biomedical database of more than half a million UK residents. To see if their model was accurate, they first analyzed more than 19,000 fundus images taken from more than 11,000 participants who were in relatively good health. The idea was that the biological ages of these people’s retinas should be somewhat similar to their chronological age.
The model was fairly accurate in predicting retinal ages, with accuracy within 3.5 years for the chronological ages. They then used the model to evaluate nearly 36,000 participants’ remaining photographs collected over an 11-year period. They found that 51% of participants had a “retinal age gap” – the difference between biological and chronological age – of more than 3 years, 28% had a gap of more than 5 years and 4.5% had a gap of more than 10 years. In other words, these participants’ eyes were “older” compared to their chronological age.
Those with larger age gaps had a 49% to 67% higher risk of dying from causes other than cardiovascular disease or cancer. As the age gap increases each year, the risk of death increases by 2% from any cause and 3% from causes other than cardiovascular disease and cancer. But they did not find a link between the age gap in the retina and death from cardiovascular disease or cancer.
The researchers note that because it was an observational study, they were unable to determine a cause-and-effect relationship. “These findings suggest that retinal age may be a clinically important biomarker of aging,” the authors wrote.
Originally published on Live Science.