New Study Finds Eyes & the Aging Process Linked
Feb 12, 2022
They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. According to researchers from the Center for Eye Research Australia, the eyes may also be windows into the aging process. These researchers found that the retinal age gap could be used as a screening tool for someone’s overall health and their risk of death.
What Is the Retinal Age Gap?
The retinal age gap is the difference between the biological age of the retina, which is the tissues in the back of the eye that are sensitive to light, and the chronological age of the patient. The higher the gap, the higher the risk of illness or death. The retinal age isn’t just indicative of retinas that are biologically older than someone’s chronological age. It’s also an indicator of overall biological age differing from chronological age.
How Can the Retinal Age Gap Indicate Health?
People who are of the same chronological age can have different biological ages in that some are more at risk of illness and dying than others of the same age. The gap between the retinal age and the person’s chronological age can be an indicator of that risk.
The study in question was observational only and therefore the researchers couldn’t claim that older retinal age caused poorer health. However, they did see a correlation between older retinal age and a greater risk of illness and mortality as well as a correlation between younger retinal health and better overall health, even between people of the same chronological age.
What Else Can Indicate a Biological Age Gap?
There are other tests that can be used to indicate when someone’s biological age is different from their chronological age. However, these tests are based on imaging, chemicals, and tissues and can be rather invasive and time-consuming as well as expensive. Plus, there are ethical concerns involved. Checking the retinal age gap instead can help to reduce those problems.
How Did Researchers Discover Retinal Age Gap?
The researchers used deep learning, which is a type of artificial intelligence, to examine retinal images from almost 50,000 adults whose ages ranged from 40 to 69. They were training an AI learning module to recognize retinal age and therefore included at least 19,200 retinal images for people who were healthy. The other images were of the retinas of people who were in varying stages of worse health.
The machine learning program was able to identify the retinal images of those people who had older retinal ages. The researchers found that there was a correlation between older retinal age and poorer health. The people with younger retinal ages were in general healthier than those who had a larger retinal age gap.
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