Group creating system to detect, prevent vision loss from diseases

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 7:12 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 37 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. Although it’s on the rise more than ever, the CDC reported one in five of them don’t know they have it.

Diabetes and its lasting effects have impacted a group from Texas A&M, which includes Uthej Vattipalli and TJ Falohun. The group members have family members who have diabetes and have experienced vision loss because of it.

“Diabetes affects 11% of the U.S. population, and this figure is greater in underrepresented groups,” Falohun said.

Two years ago, the group started working on a solution to help detect diseases like diabetes and prevent vision loss early on. The group is currently developing an eye disease detection system, which includes a headpiece to test the eyes for diseases and corresponding software.

“This is not trying to replace the current eye care system,” Vattipalli said. “The goal is to actually detect people early on so that we can bring a lot more people into the current existing system.”

The headpiece will capture images of the retina and the software will detect diseases like diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Unlike at regular eye appointments, the group’s system won’t require dilation drops.

“From the primary care physicians, they can now offer a more complete set of exams and from the patients, obviously, they now have higher quality health care,” Falohun said.

The group recently earned a $260,000 Phase-1 SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation to support this project. They’re planning to have the software completed next year and the headpiece in 2024.

Along with helping people in the U.S., the group hopes to reach those abroad.

“We can take this to areas even globally like underserved areas where access to eye care isn’t the easiest,” Vattipalli said.

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