Research to the Rescue (Action against COVID-19)

A novel artificial intelligence tool automatically generated measurements for eye characteristics from a digital image of Dr. Seanna Grob. The tool has the potential to diagnose external eye disorders from photos taken at home during the pandemic.

At press time, UCSF vision scientists had already launched 18 research projects to address aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few highlights.


Forecasting Viral Spread in California

Travis Porco, PhD, MPH; Lee Worden, PhD; Seth Blumberg, MD; and Rae Wannier, BS; of the Proctor Foundation are analyzing mathematical models to guide public health policy, in coordination with the San Francisco Department of Health. The team’s analysis focuses on real-time assessment of current control measures, as well as analysis of contact investigation, mask usage, and social distancing.


Using Artificial Intelligence and Selfies to Diagnose Eye Diseases

Luca Della Santina, PhD, and Michael Deiner, PhD, lead a team of clinicians and computer scientists to develop “deep learning” methods that can identify conditions that affect the surface of the eye (external disorders) from selfie images taken by patients (or their families or caregivers) at home. This tool has strong potential to support telemedicine for vision care during and after the pandemic. Collaborators include Seanna Grob, MD; Julius Oatts, MD; Gerami Seitzman, MD; Tom Lietman, MD; and M. Reza Vagefi, MD.


Home Testing for Glaucoma Patients

Yvonne Ou, MD, and Michael Deiner, PhD, are studying whether a novel mobile visual field test for glaucoma patients can provide an effective at-home alternative to conventional in-clinic testing during the pandemic. Co-developed with Vivid Vision, Inc., the test uses inexpensive virtual reality headsets and oculokinetic perimetry methods pioneered by Bertil Damato, MD, PhD, FRCOphth. Dr. Ou can quickly evaluate the results of tests that her patients perform in their homes.


At a COVID-19 screening tent, a Proctor fellow and a nurse study virus aerosolization caused by speech.

Pinpointing Short-Distance Viral Spread

Julie Schallhorn, MD, and Gerami Seitzman, MD, lead two investigations to determine the presence and prevalence of aerosolized SARS-CoV2 viral particles emitted when patients speak (or sing!). One focuses on people at a testing site and the other on patients convalescing at home. The team also includes Thuy Doan, MD, PhD, who performs the genetic diagnostic testing, and Miel Sundararajan, MD. Findings will inform future safety guidelines.


UCSF East Bay Vision Clinic

Providing vision care in comprehensive ophthalmology, glaucoma, retina, oculoplastics, and optometry. Call 415.353.2800 to discuss moving your vision care.

Research support is provided by the National Institutes of Health, Research to Prevent Blindness, and That Man May See.