Newswise — New York, NY, December 31 --The Glaucoma Foundation (TGF) is signing off 2021 with the largest research grant it has ever awarded. Over the years TGF has funded millions of dollars in smaller seed grants for innovative ideas that have led to larger grants funded by the government and other entities.

Now TGF has awarded $250,000 to a research team at the University of California, San Diego for a two-year project designed to help forecast glaucoma progression and the need for surgical intervention using Artificial Intelligence (AI). UC San Diego’s winning proposal was selected by a panel of independent AI experts from five applicants who had responded to a call for applications by The Glaucoma Foundation earlier in 2021.

“There is currently no way to forecast glaucoma disease progression or make predictions about whether patients will require incisional surgery or be blinded by glaucoma,” says Elena Sturman, President and CEO of The Glaucoma Foundation. “Also, decisions about target intraocular pressure (IOP) are arbitrary and based on clinical consideration of patient age, amount of baseline damage, and baseline IOP.”           

“This proposal provides the data and expertise to not only develop a generalizable AI model to predict who needs surgery and who will progress, but also the infrastructure to use in a randomized clinical trial of AI guided glaucoma management,” says principal investigator Linda Zangwill, PhD, professor in the Viterbi Family Department of Ophthalmology at UC San Diego. 

As the proposal explains, bringing data together for developing multi-modal models in ophthalmology is currently a manual, effort-intensive process. A simple clinical example illustrates this: ophthalmologists need to log into separate information systems to review ophthalmic clinical data, which are typically located in electronic health records (EHRs), and to review ophthalmic imaging data, which are located in picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) that are distinct from EHRs. Furthermore, currently AI models are typically trained and tested using retrospective data that have been extracted from EHRs or PACS or manually curated.

Unfortunately, even in patients who are diagnosed and treated for glaucoma there is currently have no way to forecast who will progress, or who will require surgery. Given the potentially devastating consequences of undiagnosed advanced glaucoma, not only on the eyes but across a spectrum of outcomes, it is critical to identify individuals who are at greatest risk of developing the disease and who are at greatest risk of progressing quickly to vision loss. With this knowledge, clinicians can appropriately tailor treatment approaches, determine follow-up intervals for ongoing monitoring, and more effectively engage patients.

About The Glaucoma Foundation

The Glaucoma Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of people with glaucoma through research, education and advocacy. It supports basic and applied research in glaucoma with a potential to translate basic science into treatment and the goal of preserving and restoring vision. It strives to be an important educational resource to help patients, their families, and at-risk individuals learn about and manage their glaucoma and it advocates on their behalf.