Group creating a system to detect and prevent vision loss from disease


BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 37 million people in the United States have diabetes. Although it’s on the rise more than ever, the CDC reported that one in five of them didn’t know they had it.

Diabetes and its lasting effects have impacted a Texas A&M group, which includes Uthej Vattipalli and TJ Falohun. The band members have family members who have diabetes and have suffered vision loss as a result of it.

“Diabetes affects 11% of the US population, and that figure is higher in underrepresented groups,” Falohun said.

Two years ago, the group began working on a solution to help detect diseases like diabetes and prevent vision loss at an early stage. The group is currently developing an eye disease detection system, which includes a helmet to test the eyes for disease and the corresponding software.

“It’s not about replacing the current eye care system,” Vattipalli said. “The goal is to catch people very early on so we can bring a lot more people into the current existing system.”

The headset will capture images of the retina and the software will detect diseases like diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Unlike regular eye appointments, the band’s system will not require dilation drops.

“Primary care doctors, they can now offer a more comprehensive set of exams and patients, obviously, they now get better quality health care,” Falohun said.

The group recently secured a $260,000 Phase 1 SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation to support this project. They plan to complete the software next year and the headset in 2024.

In addition to helping people in the United States, the group hopes to reach those overseas.

“We can bring this to areas even globally like underserved areas where access to eye care isn’t the easiest,” Vattipalli said.

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