(Clockwise from left) A fundus image of an eye with glaucoma, cataract, and myopic macular degeneration. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE EYE RESEARCH INSTITUTE

SINGAPORE - Twenty scientists from the Singapore Eye Research Institute (Seri) were ranked among the top 2 per cent in the world as highly cited researchers in their field, a recent study has found.

They were lauded for research work focusing mainly on artificial intelligence, myopia and glaucoma.

The Elsevier-Stanford study, published in October last year, found that the scientists were among the top 2 per cent in the field of ophthalmology and optometry. This refers to a branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders.

A database of over 100,000 top scientists were created based on metrics such as the number of citations they have received for their research papers. The scientists were classified into 22 fields.

Citations measure the impact of a piece of research as it looks at the number of times a research paper is cited in the work of other papers, theses and dissertations.

Among the Seri researchers featured was Professor Saw Seang Mei, co-head of the Myopia Research Group at Seri, who published a 19-year study looking at the progression of myopia in highly myopic Singaporean children from childhood to young adulthood.

The study also evaluated long-term risk factors for pathological myopia - where extreme shortsightedness has caused degenerative changes to the back of the eye - such as myopic macular degeneration.

This refers to the loss of one's central vision due to damage to the central part of the retina (known as the macular). It causes difficulty in reading, watching TV and recognising faces.

Other researchers who were cited included Associate Professor Daniel Ting, who is head of Seri's AI and Digital Innovations Research Group.

Prof Ting's team has developed a deep-learning system that is able to detect diabetic retinopathy and related eye diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration to limit the effects of preventable blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetic complication that affects the eyes, caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina.

This system, known as Selena+ (Singapore Eye Lesion Analyzer Plus), was evaluated for its diagnostic performance using nearly 500,000 retinal images and showed 91 per cent sensitivity and 90 per cent specificity in detecting these conditions.

A test's sensitivity refers to its ability to correctly identify patients with a disease, while the specificity is a test's ability to correctly identify people without the disease.

It has also been employed in the first AI-aided national screening programme for diabetic retinopathy.