People 'n' Issues

Canon cameras to drive facial screening project

March 23rd, 2016
Canon South Africa has teamed up with the University of Pretoria’s Department of Genetics in a facial screening project that will assist with the early diagnosis of disorders in South African children.
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Ten Canon EOS 1200D cameras will be used to build a 3D camera for the university’s Facial Morphology Research Group. The ten cameras will be triggered simultaneously and the images used to build 3D models of faces. These 3D models will be used to identify specific facial features associated with syndromes like Down syndrome, Prader-Willi, Fragile X and Marfan syndrome in infants.

“When we heard about this tremendous, forward thinking project, we were excited to be involved in bringing it to fruition,” says Michelle Janse van Vuuren, Marketing Director at Canon South Africa. “We are pleased to be in a position to sponsor the necessary equipment to facilitate the building of a 3D camera for the facial morphology research project. This initiative has great potential to empower the early diagnoses of syndromes in African children, allowing for timely treatment to be effected and improving prognoses.”

Around 700 disorders have characteristic facial features associated with them. These facial features can play an important role in the initial diagnosis of disorders, but they differ somewhat between different populations. Many of the disorders are more difficult to recognise in African children because so little is known about the specific facial features associated with them in African populations. For example, Down syndrome, which is easily recognised in Western infants, is often difficult to recognise in Black African infants.

This means that they don’t get the lifesaving medical screening and treatment that they need when they require it. Some of these children likely die from associated conditions such as heart defects, even though these conditions could have been treated if their disorder was diagnosed in time.

The research group wants to change that by identifying the facial features associated with a range of disorders in African kids. Once these features have been identified, facial screening tools will be developed to help doctors identify the specific disorders more easily.

“It is clear that we need more research to identify the specific facial features associated with disorders such as Down syndrome in African infants and children,” says Dr Vinet Coetzee, head of the Facial Morphology Research group. “We need accurate facial photographs of children with and without the disorder. 3D images are ideal because they contain information on a range of different dimensions, so we can identify key facial features more accurately. An accurate 3D camera will enable us to precisely capture and identify these facial features.”

With this 3D camera in action, the research group can capture and analyse the specific facial dimensions that differ between those affected and those not affected by disorders. The first project will focus on identifying the features associated with Down syndrome in African children and infants. Once the groundwork has been laid the project will include more researchers and more disorders such as Autism, Mitochondrial disorders, Prader-Willi, Marfan and Fragile X syndrome.

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