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Google’s DeepMind has potentially made the first significant application of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) in healthcare, after developing AI to diagnose disease by analysing medical images. According to the Financial Times, the company has crunched data from thousands of retinal scans to train an A.I. algorithm to detect signs of eye disease more quickly and efficiently than human specialists.

Findings were submitted to a medical journey after “promising signs” from a two-year partnership with the National Health Service and London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital. The technology could enter clinical trials in a few years if results pass a peer review by academics. Dominic King, clinical lead for DeepMind Health, explained, “In specific areas like medical imaging, you can see we’re going to make really tremendous progress in the next couple of years with artificial intelligence. Machine learning could have a very important role picking up things more sensitively and specifically than currently happens.”

The organisation’s algorithm has been trained using anonymised 3D retinal scans provided by Moorfields and labeled for signs of disease by doctors. At present, the company is discussing clinical trials with hospitals including Moorfields. As a result of the images being able to provide rich data with millions of pixels of information, the algorithm can learn to analyse them for signs of the three biggest serious eye diseases, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration.

Director of research and development at Moorfields, Peng Tee Khaw, said, “I am optimistic that what we learn from this research will benefit people around the world and help put an end to avoidable sight loss. We hope to publish our findings in a peer-reviewed journal within the next year.”



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