Singapore's largest ICT research institute has set up a joint laboratory with Japan's top opthalmic manufacturer, Topcon Corporation, to better advance technologies for the battle with eye ailments.
The ATLANTIA (Advanced Technological Laboratory for A*STAR aNd Topcon's Innovative Alliance), located in the Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) premises at Fusionopolis, will develop technologies for early detection of eye maladies.
Dr. Tan Geok Leng, executive director of I²R, said the collaboration will enable them to develop a wide range of technologies that could nip the causes of blindness in the bud.
"Our eyes are the windows to the world. Early detection of eye diseases such as glaucoma, myopia and age-related macular degeneration can potentially reduce healthcare costs and prevent and reduce pain and suffering for the patients," he said.
Despite a well-established healthcare system that has placed Singapore in sixth position among the world's healthcare systems last ranked by the World Health Organization in 2000, the country still has one of the highest cases of myopia in the world.
Myopia, otherwise known as shortsightedness, allows individuals to see near objects clearly but not distant objects.
Eight out of 10 Singaporeans, who are 18 years and above, are myopic with almost three in 10 children, as young as seven years old, suffering from myopia, according to a study by National University of Singapore.
Glaucoma, dubbed as the 'silent thief of sight,' accounts for 40 percent of blindness in Singapore. Currently, about six percent of the population suffers from chronic glaucoma, a disease that has no symptoms in the early stages.
Meanwhile, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects close to five percent of the population, with males at higher risk than females. The risk of deteriorating eyesight increases with age, hitting eight percent for those in their 60s and 16 percent for those in their 70s, according to a study by SingHealth.
The collaboration aims to reduce the economic and social impact of blindness on patients, healthcare industry and the government by leveraging on the expertise of I²R's Ocular Imaging Programme and Topcon.
The collaboration will develop automated intelligent technologies to improve accuracies and to speed up detection of eye disorders. These technologies could later be installed by eye screening machines used by hospitals and optical shops in future routine eye checks.
The prospects for high-tech early detection of eye disease are further fuelled by a highly accessible cloud based data management system co-developed for healthcare practitioners and patients.
"For early detection of eye diseases, Topcon is developing the cloud-based eye screening and management system," said Yasufumi Fukuma, president of eye care company at Topcon. "I²R has capabilities in developing the image recognition software from horizontal and cross-sectional ocular images which can be incorporated into our system," he added.
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