30/10/2019

NICHS: New Eye Test May Detect Heart Conditions

Groundbreaking research carried out in Northern Ireland is on the cusp of creating a high street eye test that detects heart conditions.

Funded by the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS), a team of professors and cardiology medics from Ulster University and Royal Victoria Hospital are developing a simple camera-based test that examined the blood vessels in front of the eye.

According to the researchers, the eye is a window to the heart and those who keep regular eye appointments could be simultaneously looking after their heart health.

Initial trials with over 100 cardiac patients in Northern Ireland have brought impressive results for the revolutionary technology, which if implemented would banish the need for specialist NHS clinicians in favour of an inexpensive test.

Professor Tara Moore, who has spearheaded the research said: "As part of our own health checks we get our eyes and ears tested regularly. Therefore, adding this screening to an eye test will hopefully raise awareness if any potential risk factors that should be addressed further. This will also enable the individual to assess and adapt their lifestyle to strengthen their heart health, reducing risk."

Ultimately, the team aims for their 'smartphone-based test' to be used widely amongst high street opticians once thoroughly trialled and could also be developed in the future into an 'at home test' which anyone could use on their mobile phones.

Professor Moore added; "Our eventual aim is to develop a medical technology capable of catching cardiovascular disease through early warning signs we can see in these small vessels in the eye. An important ambition for the team is to make this technology available to all; regardless of socio-economic status, location or age."

The research is part of the NICHS organisation's five-year strategy to lead the fight against heart disease in Northern Ireland through prevention and care services.

A significant amount of the funding has been donated by local business, Value Cabs, who raised £125,000 for the project.

Declan Cunnane, CEO of NICHS commented: "Professor Moore's ambitions to further the prevention of heart disease through a widely available test falls in line with our organisation's aims to inform people of heart disease risk factors, and ultimately fight the rising rates of heart disease in Northern Ireland.

"This research is funded by NI Chest Heart and Stroke with significant help from Value Cabs to whom we are very grateful. We are committed to investing in improving the overall standard of health, care and support across Northern Ireland. As part of our five-year strategy, we have pledged to invest at least £2 million into high quality research such as Eye as a Window by 2023 to enable a real impact for local people."

Christopher McCausland from Value Cabs added: "As a local partner for NI Chest Heart and Stroke, it gives us great pleasure to see the £125,000 staying in Northern Ireland to fund this research to produce such a simple test. As a family, we know how quickly heart conditions can strike and to know our donation is helping develop a test that will be available to all and show the signs of heart disease sooner, is fantastic."



(JG/MH)

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