FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Device to Diagnose Patients by Looking in Their Eyes

They say the eyes are the window to the soul. One company is taking that maxim literally by developing a clinical device that allows doctors to diagnose patients' illnesses by looking into their eyes.

The article in USA Today is short on specifics, but West Virginia-based MD Biotech has developed a noninvasive instrument that analyzes various properties of the eye, and can use what it finds to diagnose "a wide range of injuries, illness and physical abnormalities." The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the good folks who brought you the Internet, has given MD Biotech nearly $1 million in grants to develop the device. DARPA sees potential in military use, where diagnoses on the battlefield would need to be made on-the-fly. But another obvious application would be in pediatrics; doctors could use the device on very small children too young to give useful feedback about their condition.

One question is clear: If a doctor can diagnose diseases with one of these instruments, how else could this technology be used? And that spawns many, many other questions...

Could pharmacists use the technology to determine if a customer has allergies to specific medications? If someone had a contagious disease, could their eyes be scanned at a distance, and could they be prevented from, say, entering a public building? Could someone on a first date scan the eyes of their partner to learn whether he or she has an STD? Could you scan your own eyes to give yourself a regular checkup, consulting with your doctor only if something serious turns up? Could this technology diagnose emotional as well as physical maladies? The possibilities are endless... assuming the technology works.

Source: Techdirt