Project Lead(s): Ahmed Fahmy
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death, with more than 80% of these deaths taking place in low- and middle-income countries. While early detection of CVD is possible through affordable tools such as laboratory tests, their efficacy is limited because, without symptoms, the patient rarely pays attention to cardiovascular health until the late stages of CVD.
The objective of this project was to develop a CVD screening process in Egypt, to encourage the public to check their cardiovascular health sooner. The approach involved building an innovative, mobile-based tool to capture/analyze images of blood vessels in the eye and report the likelihood that the patient has vascular disorders.
The approach is based on two hypotheses: that the human vascular system is one compartment; thus a disease in an inner vessel will show up in the peripheral vessels, and that blood vessels in the eye can be easily and directly imaged using low-cost devices
The first step of the project was to assess whether external examination of scleral vessels could be used to detect internal vascular problems. A team of researchers investigated several algorithms to improve the quality of eye images acquired by mobile phones, determining the exact location of the different vessels inside these images, determining whether some geometric features may reflect how healthy the vessels were and, finally, evaluating the capability of these features to differentiate normal from abnormal vessels.
This last step required building a database of images of healthy volunteers with no signs or history of cardiovascular diseases and patients with different types of cardiovascular disease (e.g., stroke, angina, chronic high blood pressure or ischemic heart disease).
Another component of the project was to publicize a campaign of ‘take a photo, save a life’ in collaboration with NGOs aiming to have a multiplication effect, whereby each individual screens a friend or a family member.
A website will also be developed to connect the patients to specialists and with each other, through forums discussing CVD-related issues. The website will be used to sustain free-of-charge services to the patients through advertising pharmaceutical products, and cardiovascular hospitals and centres.
A total of 164 individuals were scanned using the software developed in the project. A statistically significant association was found between some geometric features in the eye and patients with CVD, versus healthy subjects.
Knowledge of the project has been widely disseminated at conferences and the team plans to apply for Transition To Scale (TTS) funding.
A website has also been established that aimed to raise the general awareness about cardiovascular disease, eye diseases and how to maintain a healthy heart and vascular system.