Fight for Sight is partnering with Diabetes UK to investigate if people with diabetic retinopathy are at greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19, in a study that hopes to save lives.
This research, which will be carried out at the University of Edinburgh, will investigate whether people previously diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy experience worse COVID-19 outcomes, and determine whether this is because the virus can reach tissues outside the lungs (in this case the eye) due to damaged blood vessel walls.
If successful, the results of the study will allow researchers to propose new ways of predicting COVID-19 risk based on noninvasive imaging of the eye. This could assist doctors in identifying the people at greatest risk of complications at the time of diagnosis and plan their treatment pathways accordingly.
This project builds on the success of the multidisciplinary eye research group at the University of Edinburgh convened by Prof. Bal Dhillon, and the close collaboration between clinical ophthalmology, pathology, data science, and image analysis (Drs Megaw, Dorward, MacCormick, and Bernabeu).
“For this study, we will capitalize on over a decade of our existing analysis in patients with brain, cardiovascular and renal diseases, using computer image analysis and risk estimation based on artificial intelligence (AI) methods,” Dr. Miguel O. Bernabeu, who is coordinating the study at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, said in a news release. “If the results support our hypothesis, we will be in a position to design a prospective study to validate these findings and advance towards clinical adoption within one year. We will also investigate whether pre-existing damage to blood vessels caused by diabetes can predict COVID-19 virus tissue invasion in other vital organs including the brain and kidney in our parallel clinico-pathological study.”
“We are so pleased to partner with Diabetes UK to fund this important and timely research study. If successful, it has the potential to help ensure better outcomes for countless people who contract the COVID-19 virus, and ultimately could save lives,” Chief Executive of Fight for Sight Sherine Krause said in the news release. “We know that science has the answer to so many challenges – the power of science will help us stop the pandemic, and we know it will also help us stop sight loss and blindness in the future. We wish the team at University of Edinburgh the best of luck with their research project and look forward to seeing the results.”