C-BER organises photographic exhibition that combines art and technology

Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, who presumably said “The eyes are the windows of the soul and the mirror of the world”, we would say that, in a medical diagnosis environment, the eyes are the windows to the observation of the ocular condition. They are also a window, that allows a direct and non-invasive observation of blood vessels, and thus assess the cardiovascular and cerebral condition. With these diagnostic goals, specialized photographic cameras are used to digitize retinal images, the retinographies, that challenge researchers from Medical Imaging, Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence to develop computational systems for supporting medical diagnosis. It was under this context, that the SCREEN-DR research project was created, proposing the development of a computational platform for screening diabetic retinopathy.

The diversity of the generated images is huge, as are the pathologies that can occur. Images could raise questions to a clinician, who try to find an adequate diagnosis. The processing of digital images challenge the technological researchers to find the ways to enhance the image details, to make more evident the presence/absence of a pathology. But images also awake emotions and perplexities able to allow the creation of objects with photographic / artistic meaning. From this multiplicity of views provided by the images, a challenge was born to create this multifaceted event under the double designation ”Look and See. Sense and Live” and “Other Portraits and Self-Portraits. Therefore the event combines several SCREEN-DR dissemination elements, coordinated by INESC TEC’s Centre for Biomedical Engineering Research (C-BER), associating a photography exhibit to a set of conferences on image and vision, from an artistic, medical and technological point of view.

Overall, we aim to disseminate a technological project with multiple Engineering, Medicine and Health Administration contributions, awake reflections/emotions through the exhibited photographic objects, and to alert the diabetic population to the importance of diabetic retinopathy screening. The opening of the photographic exhibit is on 23 February at 4:00 pm at MIRA FORUM, in Porto. Aurélio Campilho, coordinator of C-BER and Full Professor at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP) and Renato Roque, photographer and trained as an engineer, are the coordinators of the set of events that make up this initiative that we’re disclosing. The conferences are free to attend. The exhibit “Outros Retratos e Auto-retratos” (in English “Other Portraits and Self-Portraits”) can be visited until March 16.

Diabetic retinopathy and the technological screening

INESC TEC – Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science coordinates the project SCREEN-DR aiming at the creation of a computational platform for the screening of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication, a pathology with a rapid growth worldwide. Diabetic retinopathy is the main cause of blindness in the industrialized world, that can have a successful treatment if the retinopathy is diagnosed in an early phase. The early detection of this pathology is the main goal of the screening programme. In a screening process, data flow involves the acquisition of eye fundus images in a health centre, sending the images to the health administration and final referral to the ophthalmology service. Here, the presence of the pathology is detected and its severity assessed, with possible referral of the patient for treatment. Statistically, about 75% of the observed images do not show signs of pathology. This fact is one of the main challenges of the project, by finding ways to alleviate the burden of ophthalmologists, removing from the set of images to be observed, those that correspond to non-pathological situations.

The platform is based on artificial intelligence technologies that evaluate the quality of the images collected from the eye fundus, detect the normal images and assign a degree of severity to the pathology, aiding the decision-making process of the ophthalmologists. The results obtained so far are very promising, with a performance close to a human expert. In addition to INESC TEC and FEUP – Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto, participate in the SCREEN-DR project the following institutions: Carnegie Mellon University (USA), University of Aveiro, Regional Health Administration of the North Region and BMD Software, with the collaboration of the São João Hospital Center and First Medical Solutions. It is funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology under the Carnegie Mellon Program | Portugal.