Researchers have developed a new AI tool, called RETFound, that can diagnose and predict the risk of various health conditions by analysing retinal images. RETFound is based on a self-supervised learning method that does not require labelled data for training. The tool can learn from millions of unlabelled retinal images and then fine-tune its performance with a small number of labelled images for specific diseases. The tool can detect ocular diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, as well as systemic diseases such as heart failure and Parkinson’s disease. RETFound is one of the few successful applications of a foundation model to medical imaging, and the researchers have made it publicly available for others to adapt and use. However, the tool also has some limitations and ethical challenges that need to be addressed.

I am excited to see AI technology aid in diagnostics that could detect disease earlier, hopefully mitigating the impacts of the disease. Like all AI models, this is a supporting tool and not a replacement for trained professionals.