Such was the success of UK Biobank recruitment all those years ago, that in the last phase we received extra money to take detailed eye measurements. This visionary decision has created a rich and exciting seam of data that has an impact not just on eye health – but many other disorders as well.
- Could routine eye tests be a cheap, quick and simple way to identify diseases like dementia earlier? Researchers certainly think so, and hope such tests will become commonplace in the near future. Eye examination can identify risk of stroke, heart attack, hypertension, dementia and other health problems. Now, UK Biobank data have shown that thinning of the retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL) is linked to cognitive decline.
- Glaucoma is the world’s leading cause of incurable blindness. It affects more than 500,000 people in the UK and millions worldwide. An international collaboration has used UK Biobank to identify more than 100 genetic changes linked to high eye pressure that could pave the way for a genetic-based screening programme for those at greatest risk.
- Education and short-sightedness are linked. But it is not clear whether it’s down to more time spent studying, myopic children being more studious, or something else. So researchers used UK Biobank data to find out – and discovered that every additional year of education was associated with more short-sightedness. They said this‘strong evidence’ has ‘important implications for educational practices’.
- Pictures of the eye could be used to identify people at higher risk of heart attack or stroke. The Google Research brain team showed that images can accurately predict a major cardiovascular event. With many thousands of images to study and detailed follow-up of participants’ health, the sheer volume of UK Biobank data is bringing important advances in to focus.
UK Biobank encourages experts to work together. With a vast array of eye data to analyse, leading scientists formed the UK Biobank eye & vision consortium – and are targeting 12 areas of eye research including nutrition, cataracts, genetics, retinal detachment and visual acuity.
Read more: www.ukbiobankeyeconsortium.org.uk/