Alexandra Roumeliotis, 17, was only seven years old when her grandfather went blind due to a brain aneurysm pressing upon his optic nerve. The rare disorder took doctors years to diagnose, but by then, it was too late to save his vision. Roumeliotis was determined to put her technical skills to the test in creating OpticEye, an efficient and accurate way to diagnose her grandfather’s disorder on a mobile phone.
OpticEye is a mobile application and 3D-printed lens attachment that can diagnose papilledema, a swelling of the optic disc indicative of a severe underlying neurological disorder. The user takes a picture of their retina on a mobile phone using the 3D-printed lens attachment. Then, the retinal image is compared across a database of images consisting of healthy and unhealthy optic discs, in order to determine a diagnosis. While still being tested for efficiency, Roumeliotis plans to release OpticEye to the public later this year.
What inspired your idea?
Alexandra: After my grandfather’s prolonged misdiagnosis of a brain aneurysm, I was determined to create an efficient and accurate way to diagnose his disorder. I wanted to create an impact to help other people like my grandfather with accessible, at-home health care.
How did you start creating OpticEye?
Alexandra: I started by doing lots of research to become really well-informed about papilledema. I spent a lot of time reading articles about my grandfather’s disorder and the many potential triggers of optic disc swelling, and specifically how papilledema differs visually and neurologically from other similar disorders. I wanted to have a really strong understanding of the disorder in order to understand how I would be able to diagnose it.
I began to reach out to a lot of experts across fields of ophthalmology and computer vision, or those doing similar work, in order to get their advice and feedback on my idea, as well as further my knowledge and understanding of the disorder and current technologies. They were able to answer any questions I had, as well as direct me towards publications or research that would further my understanding. I was able to spend time in an office with an ophthalmologist, where I was able to get an understanding of how papilledema is diagnosed, which helped me determine how I could translate this manual diagnosis into a mobile application.
With the help of classmates, teachers, and mentors in ophthalmology and computer vision, I was able create an algorithm and design a 3D-printed lens attachment that could be used to diagnose my grandfather’s disorder.