100% Optical

Gaining systemic health insights from the eye

Emily Patterson and Dr Alistair Bounds discussed the potential that oculomics holds for healthcare during their 100% Optical talk


Occuity retinal imaging scientist, Emily Patterson, and physicist, Dr Alistair Bounds, outlined what the eye can reveal about general health conditions during their presentation at 100% Optical (ExCeL London, 24–26 February).

“Not only does the eye let us see into the past – it gives us insight on the present and the future,” Patterson highlighted.

She shared how the different layers of the lens provide clues about an individual’s past through mapping the build-up of different proteins.

“If you had a time when you were particularly unhealthy, we would be able to see that in the layers of the eye,” Patterson said.

The composition of the vitreous and aqueous humour provides insight into the current health of an individual.

Lipid-soluble substances, such as fats, and water-soluble substances, such as glucose, can be found in this part of the eye.

“If you have high levels of fats in the body that will be reflected in the vitreous and aqueous humour,” Patterson shared.

She added that the retina can reveal signs of an individual’s future within the neural layers.

“We can see signs of neuro degenerative disease before we see an onset of any symptoms,” Patterson explained.

She outlined how the eye can reveal signs of the four diseases responsible for the largest proportion of deaths internationally – cardiac disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease and metabolic syndrome.

Dr Alistair Bounds discussed the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in providing insights on systemic health from the eye. He shared that AI can quickly analyse large amounts of data.

“You can use AI to solve things that a human just can’t,” he said.

He shared how AI has analysed retinal photographs to estimate levels of coronary artery calcium – which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Bounds shared that in the eyes of patients with diabetes, there is a build-up of advanced glycation end products (AGE) within the lens.

Fluorescence measurements can be used to detect AGE concentration in the lens, he added.

“If you have too much glucose in your body, you will have a greater concentration of advanced glycation end products in your eye,” he said.

Bounds highlighted there is potential to improve the monitoring of blood glucose levels, with traditional methods involving pricking a finger.

“There’s a lot of interest in moving away from that. This is an example of what we can do with the aqueous humour,” he said.