Observing the retina could be enough to understand what state of health we are in. A team of scientists from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Broad Institute has found that there are links between retinal thickness and the risk of developing various diseases, not only eye diseases, but also neuropsychiatric and cardiometabolic diseases.

It’s not the first time a scientific study has shown that looking into your eyes can help you learn more about your health. Already research results from St. George’s University of London, published online on British Journal of Ophthalmologyhad shown that retinal imaging, i.e. scans of the network of veins and arteries in the retina, can use artificial intelligence to predict cardiovascular disease without the need for blood tests or blood pressure measurements.

What to see with Oct.

The human retina is a highly complex tissue made up of layers of cells, and these retinal cells can often provide clues about the health of the eye and general system. This latest research was just published in the journal Scientific translational medicine, analyzed retinal images and health data of more than 44,000 people from a large medical database. The retinal images were captured using a technique called optical coherent radiation tomography (OCT), a routine, noninvasive imaging method that creates three-dimensional images of the eye.

The connection between the retina, heart and lungs

By conducting a series of genotypic studies, the team identified some inherited genes that influence retinal thickness and discovered several associations between retinal thickness and various eye diseases, neuropsychiatric diseases, and cardiac and metabolic diseases during a 10-year follow-up period.

For example, researchers discovered a link between thinner retinal layers and heart and kidney disease and found that thinner layers of photoreceptor segments correlated with poorer heart and lung function. However, the researchers note that these results still need to be validated to assess their clinical utility and are limited by the lack of diversity in the European participant pool.