Scientists Develop App for Early Detection of Leukocoria
A group of scientists have developed an app that detects abnormal eye reflections from pictures. Dr. Bryan Shaw, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Baylor University, Texas, helped develop an app that can detect disease early in children by scanning their pictures for leukocoria. In normal eyes, a test for light reflecting from the back of the retina shows up red. However, in those with leukocoria or ‘white eye’, the light reflection appears white.
Parents can use the app to scan pictures of their children from their phone to detect the abnormal white reflection, which is a characteristic found in eye conditions including retinoblastoma (a rare cancer most common in young children), Coat’s disease, cataracts, amblyopia and hyperopia.
The app, called CRADLE White Eye Detector, is available for free on IOS and Android devices.
In a study published in the journal Science Advances, the White Eye Detector app was tested on 52,982 children’s photos of 20 children with confirmed eye diseases and 20 with normal eyes. The app was able to detect known leukocoria in 1 in 3 pictures and around 1.3 years before the child was diagnosed in 80 percent of the cases. The researchers are working on improving these results in their new version.
The downside is that the app can’t distinguish between a white pupil reflection due to eye disease and the white eye that occasionally occurs in normal eyes. “What is really needed is an app that can tell when white eye is due to an eye disease”, says Ashwin Reddy, a retinoblastoma consultant at the Royal London Hospital in the UK.
Shaw thinks it’s difficult to distinguish this based on appearance alone but does claim that white eye appears 10 times more frequently in those with eye disease. The purpose is to encourage early diagnosis.
Researcher Shaw’s own son lost an eye to retinoblastoma after being diagnosed at only four months old. “Unfortunately, we caught it too late. Looking back, we found leukocoria showing up in pictures taken when he was only 12 days old.” said Shaw.
Lisa Christian, an associate clinical professor at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Waterloo said that “I would like to remind the reader that optometrists provide comprehensive eye care to children starting at six months of age, and parents can also choose to take their child to an optometrist to confirm the leukocoria diagnosis.”