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New biomarkers may detect early eye changes that can lead to diabetes-related blindness

July 26, 2021

New biomarkers found in the eyes could unlock the key to helping manage diabetic retinopathy, and perhaps even diabetes, according to new research conducted at the Indiana University School of Optometry.

During its early stages, diabetes can affect the eyes before the changes are detectable with a regular clinical examination. However, new retinal research has found that these changes can be measured earlier than previously thought with specialized optical techniques and computer analysis.


Four OCT images showing slices through retinas with diabetic eye disease

This image shows four types of diabetic eyes revealed using specialized optical techniques. Clockwise from top left: Typical diabetic macular edema; significant pathological changes; retina with normal retinal thickness and minimal diabetic changes; traction, along with a detaching vitreous. Image courtesy of Ann Elsner and Joel Papay

The new study is part of the current widespread emphasis on detection of diabetic retinopathy through artificial intelligence applied to retinal images. However, some of these algorithms provide detection based on features that occur much later than the changes found in this study.

The ability to detect biomarkers for this sight-threatening condition may lead to the early identification of people at risk for diabetes or visual impairment, as well as improve physicians' ability to manage these patients. The study appears in the journal PLOS One.