Clinical Academic Training


Identifying retinal vascular biomarkers for stroke prediction


  • Dr Mervyn Thomas
  • Dr Jatinder Minhas
  • Professor Tom Robinson
  • Professor Yu-Dong Zhang

Studying the neurosensory retina and vasculature offers a unique opportunity to non-invasively visualise and quantify vascular and central nervous system health. Retinal microvasculature changes have been identified as independent predictors for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Moreover, retinal microvascular changes can precede clinical manifestation of end organ damage.

In this project, the ACF will utilise large public datasets and local annotated retinal imaging datasets for the purposes of developing a machine learning model to predict the risk of developing a stroke. This model will be compared against previously published and validated stroke prediction scores. Developing novel risk prediction systems and surrogate biomarkers from retinal vascular morphometric parameters has significant predictive value and provides a window for aggressive risk reduction. The project will utilise the research computing facility, including the £2M High-Performance Computing cluster for “big data” analysis and will be linked with the local  HDRUK network.

The ACF will be hosted by the Ulverscroft Eye Unit (UEU), Cerebral Haemodynamics in Ageing and Stoke Medicine (CHiASM) group and School of Informatics. The supervisory team brings together experts in the field: Dr Thomas (Ophthalmology), Dr Minhas (Stroke Medicine), Professor Zhang (Machine Learning, FIET) and Professor Robinson (Stroke Medicine, NIHR Senior Investigator).

The proposed research aligns with the University of Leicester’s strategy of fostering interdisciplinary research within areas of excellence. Both research groups (UEU and CHiASM) contributed to the recent REF impact case studies and will build on their existing work for future REF impact case studies. The supervisory team have an established record with publications in high-impact journals in the fields of ophthalmology, stroke medicine and machine learning. UEU and CHiASM have successfully hosted NIHR trainees with excellent career progression attaining external fellowship funding and subsequently lectureship and senior lectureship posts. We anticipate the preliminary data generated as part of the ACF will place the candidate in a strong position for applying for a doctoral fellowship.

Additional information

Mr James Deane, Mr Vasilis Konidaris and Mr Somnath Banerjee will provide clinical input and support for this project from the medical retina subspeciality. This will enable access to cohorts and imaging datasets within this subspecialty.

Medical Education

If you are interested in progressing an educational research project within the speciality please visit the medical education project page


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