Researchers receive funds to create early test for diabetic peripheral neuropathy


Scientists hope to develop novel AI solutions for the prediction of DPN using corneal OCT images.

A white piggy bank sits near a stethoscope with first-aid crosses superimposed over the top.  Photo credit: ©Kiattisak –

Researachers from the University of Liverpool and Manchester Metropolitan University will receive around £1.4 million in funding. Photo credit: ©Kiattisak –

A team of researchers at the University of Liverpool and Manchester Metropolitan University have received a financial boost in their efforts to develop an early test for diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN).1

The group is receiving $1.75 million (approximately £1.4 million) to forward its efforts, according to the University of Liverpool, which highlighted the issues diabetes causes globally. The disease impacts more than 4.9 million people in the UK alone, costing the National Health Service (NHS) billions each year, with the brunt of the costs liked to complications, including DPN.

Researchers from both universities will work with scientists from Aintree University Hospital and global collaborators such as Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar to formulate a solution to detect DPN, providing for early accurate diagnosis and helping doctors to intervene when it can be more easily treated with further damage stopped – well in advance of severe complications such as foot ulcers and amputations.1

According to the university’s news release, the research team includes Uazman Alam, BSc, MBChB, MPHe, MRCP; Yaochun Shen, PhD; Yalin Zheng, PhD; and Liangxiu Han, PhD.

“There is currently no effective early screening program for DPN so we have brought together a group of world-class engineers, scientists, clinicians with extensive experience in their respective fields to develop the first kind of integrated intelligent imaging solution tailored to the needs of DPN screening,” Zheng said in the university’s news release.

The university also noted that the research will kick off work this summer, zeroing in on creating “an ultra-high-resolution optical coherence tomography (OCT) device to detect DPN, specifically in the cornea – at the front of the eyes, and the development of novel AI solutions for the prediction of DPN using corneal OCT images,” according to the release.

Moreover, the university noted that detecting DPN at is earliest stages depends upon Early being able to see miniscule nerve fibers, which are affected first.

“The cornea is the only organ in which small nerve fibers can be directly visualised and therefore where early signs of DPN can be detected. Importantly, the new device will allow for non-contact rapid imaging of the corneal nerves, making the procedure non-invasive,” Liverpool University noted in the release.

Alam has been at the forefront of the use of corneal nerves as a signal for the disease.

“Unfortunately, current clinically utilised tools to diagnose for DPN are crude and as such diagnosis is late, putting patients at risk,” Alam said in the university news release. “The ability to assess small nerve fibers of the cornea has been a major advancement but widespread use has been limited as the current technique requires direct contact with the cornea. The development of a new OCT non-contact, rapid scanning of the cornea with embedded AI would be a major advancement allowing for more widespread use.”

The university noted in its news release the study will run through 2027. Researches are expected to lead to a pilot clinical validation study in healthy volunteers and people with diabetes at Aintree University Hospital.

“This is an ambitious project where we hope to create an innovative DPN screening solution that can ultimately be fully clinically utilised,” Zheng concluded in the news release. “I hope that early detection and timely treatment of DPN by our innovations will prevent disability and save lives with substantial benefit to the UK’s society and economy."


1. University of Liverpool; £1.4m awarded to create early test for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. Published June 7, 2023. Accessed June 12, 2023.

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