Press release

AI offers insight in battle against heart failure

Published on 14 June 2019

Retinal scans studied by advanced artificial intelligence could warn people living with diabetes if they are at risk of heart failure

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The University of Dundee will spearhead CARDIATEAM, a £12 million initiative that aims to develop an early warning system with the potential to save thousands of lives every year.

The pan-European project will be led by Dundee researchers, with retinal photographs examined meticulously by state-of-the-art software in a bid to pinpoint potential health issues.

People living with diabetes are particularly susceptible to heart failure and Professor Chim Lang, the University’s Head of the Division of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, said that studying the eyes are crucial in identifying warning signs.

“This project is about developing a new way of predicting risk to a person’s health,” he said.

“People’s eyes change depending on their health, for instance if they are diabetic, but from one image we can evaluate huge amounts of valuable information. Even small changes in the size of a person’s blood vessels could give us critical knowledge about the health of their heart.

“Both diabetes and heart failure are dangerous, but together they are a lethal combination. The mechanisms of how these two conditions interact are not particularly well known and that is what this project is attempting to find out. If we know what the triggers are then we know how to treat it better.”

The British Heart Foundation estimates that more than half a million people are on their GP’s heart failure register with estimates showing that there are as many as 920,000 people living with the condition throughout the UK.

The CARDIATEAM initiative has been co-funded by the European Union and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Association. In total, 22 partners from across the continent are involved in the ambitious project.

Around 1600 volunteers will be recruited to supply retinal photographs that will be analysed with the revolutionary VAMPIRE retinal analysis software, developed by Dundee in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh.

“All diabetics receive retinal screening and the eyes are a window to our heart,” continued Professor Lang.

“With one image we receive lots of valuable information just by studying blood vessels, which is crucial to informing us about heart health.

“What happens in the eye is a reflection of what is happening throughout the rest of the body and if we can identify any warning signs before heart failure occurs then we could potentially save a huge number of lives.”


Press Office, University of Dundee