University of Iowa researchers are using computers with so-called artificial intelligence to search for inherited causes of blindness. Andrew Williams, a U-of-I professor of computer and electrical engineering, says he’s working to help physicians pinpoint inherited sight problems faster and in more detail. Williams is using software programs called “intelligent agents” which have the ability to learn from their experience. He says they’re learning various doctors’ ways of classifying eye disease subtypes and then can alert the doctors when similarities are found. Williams hopes the use of artificial intelligence will help improve how geneticists find the locations of genes that cause of eye disease with the hopes there’ll be ways of determining who might get a particular disease and to treat it before it occurs. Williams’ parents both suffered from cataracts, an eye disease that can cause partial or complete blindness. He says other U-of-I researchers are involved with looking at heredity in eye diseases, known as genotyping. Williams is doing phenotyping which deals with heritage -and- environmental causes of eye disease. Williams says he’s inspired by the work of another African-American scientist, George Washington Carver, who attended Iowa State University. Williams’ research is backed by a three-year, $771,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.
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