Discovering novel systemic biomarkers in photos of the external eye

Boris Babenko
Ilana Traynis
Christina Chen
Preeti Singh
Akib Uddin
Jorge Cuadros
Lauren P. Daskivich
April Y. Maa
Kim Ramasamy
Eugene Yu-Chuan Kang
Gregory S. Corrado
Lily Peng
Dale R. Webster
Christopher Semturs
Jonathan Krause
Avinash V. Varadarajan
Naama Hammel
Yun Liu:


External eye photos were recently shown to reveal signs of diabetic retinal disease and elevated HbA1c. In this paper, we evaluate if external eye photos contain information about additional systemic medical conditions. We developed a deep learning system (DLS) that takes external eye photos as input and predicts multiple systemic parameters, such as those related to the liver (albumin, AST); kidney (eGFR estimated using the race-free 2021 CKD-EPI creatinine equation, the urine ACR); bone & mineral (calcium); thyroid (TSH); and blood count (Hgb, WBC, platelets). Development leveraged 151,237 images from 49,015 patients with diabetes undergoing diabetic eye screening in 11 sites across Los Angeles county, CA. Evaluation focused on 9 pre-specified systemic parameters and leveraged 3 validation sets (A, B, C) spanning 28,869 patients with and without diabetes undergoing eye screening in 3 independent sites in Los Angeles County, CA, and the greater Atlanta area, GA. We compared against baseline models incorporating available clinicodemographic variables (e.g. age, sex, race/ethnicity, years with diabetes). Relative to the baseline, the DLS achieved statistically significant superior performance at detecting AST>36, calcium<8.6, eGFR<60, Hgb<11, platelets<150, ACR>=300, and WBC<4 on validation set A (a patient population similar to the development sets), where the AUC of DLS exceeded that of the baseline by 5.2-19.4%. On validation sets B and C, with substantial patient population differences compared to the development sets, the DLS outperformed the baseline for ACR>=300 and Hgb<11 by 7.3-13.2%. Our findings provide further evidence that external eye photos contain important biomarkers of systemic health spanning multiple organ systems. Further work is needed to investigate whether and how these biomarkers can be translated into clinical impact.

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