The University of Dundee will spearhead CARDIATEAM, a £12 million initiative that aims to develop an early warning system for people living with diabetes, to determine whether they are at risk of heart failure.
The project will be led by Dundee researchers and retinal photographs will be meticulously examined by state-of-the-art software in order to identify potential health concerns.
Professor Chim Lang, the University’s Head of the Division of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, said that people living with diabetes are more susceptible to heart failure and that by studying the eyes, crucial warning signs can be identified.
“This project is about developing a new way of predicting risk to a person’s health,” he explained.
“People’s eyes change depending on their health, for instance if they are diabetic, but from one image we can evaluate huge amounts of valuable information. Even small changes in the size of a person’s blood vessels could give us critical knowledge about the health of their heart.”
Professor Lang emphasised the danger of diabetes and heart failure combined and that the initiative will attempt to find out the nature of how the two conditions “interact”.
“If we know what the triggers are then we know how to treat it better,” he said.
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The British Heart Foundation estimates that more than half a million people are on their GP’s heart failure register which suggests that there are as many as 920,000 people living with the condition in the UK.
Overall, 22 partners are involved in the innovative project. The CARDIATEAM initiative has been co-funded by the European Union and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Association.
An estimated 1600 volunteers will be recruited to supply retinal photographs that will be examined by the revolutionary VAMPIRE retinal analysis software. The software was developed by Dundee in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh.
Professor Lang added: “All diabetics receive retinal screening and the eyes are a window to our heart”.
“With one image we receive lots of valuable information just by studying blood vessels, which is crucial to informing us about heart health.
“What happens in the eye is a reflection of what is happening throughout the rest of the body and if we can identify any warning signs before heart failure occurs then we could potentially save a huge number of lives.”