A practical solution to assessing future cardiovascular risk in children
About the Project
A significant proportion of lifetime cardiovascular risk is determined during early life – both in utero and during early childhood development. This risk becomes fixed in mid-childhood, suggesting that earlier assessment and interventions may be of use in transforming life courses. Retinal photography is being used to assess these risks by determining both the calibre and tortuosity of the retinal vasculature. Studies have linked different tortuousity (or straightness) of retinal vessels with heart disease.
Current camera technology, used to capture 3-5 year olds who are usually on the go and not necessarily co-operative, produces less than ideal images for analysis by international standards. UOW researchers have developed an algorithm for improving the analysis of these images, facilitating a more accurate assessment of cardiovascular risk in 3-5 year olds, potentially transforming their future lives. These images can help facilitate understanding of the these risks in different population groups. They can also be used to quantify these risks depending on prenatal and postnatal exposures such as maternal asthma, indigenous status, prematurity, childhood weight gain, physical activity etc.
Whilst initially this technology will be used to assess children, it's a necessary precursor to developing transformative intervention strategies. The same technology could be used in both research and care settings where more expensive high street retinal photography is precluded, such as remote populations or the immobile elderly.
About the Researchers
Prof. Ian Wright: UOW Professor Paediatrics and Child Health Research; part of IHMRI, SMAH, and ESRI research teams. Part of Illawarra Born research team. Processing retinal images for ESRI/IHMRI Early childhood study, Adelaide and Brisbane asthma in pregnancy studies, Townsville neonatal follow up study.
Prof. Philip Ogunbona: UOW Professor, Advanced Multimedia Research Lab.; EIS/ICT Research Institute; Computer Vision algorithm and system development.
Dr Megan Kelly: Post-doctoral ECR working on retinal image analysis.
Dr Dylan Cliff and Ms Jade McNeill: Cliff (ESRI ARC DECRA Research Fellow) and McNeill (ESRI PhD) collaborating with Wright & Kelly to explore the influence of physical activity and electronic media use on retinal microvasculature in young children longitudinally.
Dr Rute Santos (ESRI ARC DECRA Research fellow) and Ms Eduarda Sá (ESRI PhD) are collaborating with Wright to explore the influence of sedentary time and physical activity on retinal microvasculature in children aged 1 to 3 years old.
Song Liu: Computer Vision Analyst/Programmer. Advanced Multimedia Research Lab.; EIS/ICT Research Institute; Computer Vision system development.
External collaborators include:
Melanie Wittwer (University of Adelaide) and Prof. Vicki Clifton (University of Queensland) working with children following in utero asthma exposure.
Dr Yoga Kandasamy (Townsville Hospital) working with ex premature infants.