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Soon, 30-sec eye test to help combat heart disease

London, Tue, 10 Apr 2012 ANI

London, April 10 (ANI): A new eye test, being developed in Britain, could save millions of lives by diagnosing deadly heart disease early.

The cheap and easy-to-use scan would take just seconds to detect signs of heart disease, meaning it could spare heart patients the ordeal of lengthy and invasive procedures.

The test takes high-definition digital images of patients' retinas to check for telltale signs of heart disease such as changes to blood vessel width or unusually branched blood vessels.

The 30-second check is expected to become a vital NHS tool in the battle against heart disease, the Daily Express reported.

"The eyes provide a unique window into the patient's blood supply and the effect it has on the human system," said imaging expert Dr Tom MacGillivray, who is leading the research team developing the idea.

"By examining blood vessels closely we are aiming to detect abnormalities, spot signs of heart disease and then act accordingly.

"It's about prevention rather than cure but could potentially affect millions," Dr MacGillivray added.

Experts hope the eye scan could become part of a nationwide heart disease screening programme within five years.

The University of Edinburgh Clinical Research Imaging Centre project is currently testing 1,000 patients with suspected heart disease as part of the three-year study, the first of its kind in the world.

The researchers are collaborating with experts from world-renowned Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, the University of Dundee, NHS Lothian's Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion and NHS Tayside's Ninewells Hospital.

Scientists are particularly interested in subtle changes to blood vessels, which are not obvious to a human visually inspecting an image. Once a picture has been taken, experts can use complex computer image processing to identify the blood vessels and spot subtle changes.

A specialist would then make a diagnosis and, if necessary, an individual would be given a programme to help them reach better health and fitness levels before any heart problems develop.

"It is hoped this procedure will catch people early on and act as an opportunity for them to change their lifestyle before it's too late," Dr MacGillivray said.

"We are really excited by this project. We know that problems in the eye are linked to conditions such as diabetes and that abnormalities in the eyes' blood vessels can also indicate vascular problems in the brain.

"If we can identify early problems in the blood vessels we might potentially pinpoint signs of heart disease. This could help identify people who would benefit from preventative therapies," he added. (ANI)

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