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ORNL, UT project could save vision of millions
Date:2/17/2009

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 17, 2009 -- In the blink of an eye, people at risk of becoming blind can now be screened for eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.

Using a technology originally developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to understand semiconductor defects, three locations in Memphis have been equipped with digital cameras that take pictures of the retina. Those images are relayed to a center where they are analyzed and the patient knows in minutes whether he or she needs additional medical attention.

"Once we've taken pictures of the eyes, we transmit that information to our database, where it is compared to thousands of images of known retinal disease states," said Ken Tobin, who led the ORNL team that developed the technology. "From there, the computer system is able to determine whether the patient passes the screening or it provides a follow-up plan that includes seeing an ophthalmologist."

Already, this technology is making a difference as two patients at the Church Health Center in Memphis have been identified as needing laser treatment for moderate and severe diabetic retinopathy and macular edema, both conditions that can lead to blindness.

While some cameras have been installed, others will be installed at several rural and urban health care centers serving the Mississippi Delta. Another camera is planned for a federally funded health center in Chattanooga. Eventually, the goal is to have hundreds of cameras throughout the United States and beyond. If disease can be detected early, treatments can preserve vision and significantly reduce the occurrence of debilitating blindness.

This project takes advantage of ORNL's proprietary content-based image retrieval technology, which quickly sorts through large databases and finds visually similar images. For more than a decade manufacturers of semiconductors have used this technology to rap
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Contact: Ron Walli
wallra@ornl.gov
865-576-0226
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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