A new study has concluded that a simple retina scan could indicate whether a person is at risk of early death. The greater the gap between a person’s chronological age and retinal age the higher their risk of dying.
One recent study on a pattern of blood-based inflammatory biomarkers also came out. The aim was to measure a person’s immune system age. Another project is tracking the accumulation of DNA mutations over time as a way of calculating biological age and determining potential lifespan.
This latest method is claimed to be the simplest one in determining a body’s biological age. It relies on an easy retinal scan to evaluate a person’s biological age. The researchers used machine learning to create a deep learning model designed to predict a person’s age by measuring deterioration in tissue at the back of the eye.
In most healthy middle-aged adults, the algorithm could accurately predict a person’s age within three and half years from a single retinal image. Interestingly, it was also discovered that those with a large gap between their chronological age and their retinal age had a higher risk of death over an 11-year follow-up.
Those with retinal age gaps larger than three years were between 49 and 67 percent more likely to die than those with a small retinal age gap. For every year difference between retinal age and chronological age, the study calculated a two percent increase in all-cause mortality and a three percent increase in death from causes other than cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“The retina offers a unique, accessible ‘window’ to evaluate underlying pathological processes of systemic vascular and neurological diseases that are associated with increased risks of mortality,” the researchers noted in the study. “Our novel findings have determined that the retinal age gap is an independent predictor of increased mortality risk, especially of non- [cardiovascular disease]/ non-cancer mortality. These findings suggest that retinal age may be a clinically significant biomarker of aging.”
The algorithm could also be incorporated into a smartphone app allowing for doctors to remotely assess patients.
“Given the rising burden of non-communicable diseases and population aging globally, the early identification and delivery of personalized healthcare might have tremendous public health benefits,” the researchers concluded in the study. “Further, the recent development of smartphone-based retinal cameras, together with the integration of deep learning algorithms, may in the future provide point-of-care assessments of aging and improve accessibility to tailored risk assessments.”
The new study was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.