A new technology designed to detect Alzheimer’s in the back of the eye before the onset of symptoms has been created.
One of the major roadblocks towards dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is being able to spot the disease before the advent of symptoms, as it’s then that drugs and medications can be most effective at slowing the progression.
However, scientists from the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota have created new technology which lets them observe the progression of the disease in the back of the eye before symptoms appear.
Researchers observed the retinas of mice created in the lab to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and Swati More, co-author of the study, explains why the eye can be a useful diagnostic tool.
‘The retina of the eye is not just “connected” to the brain – it is part of the central nervous system. While the brain and the retina undergo similar changes due to Alzheimer’s disease, unlike the brain, the retina is easily accessible to us, making changes easier to observe.
‘We saw changes in the retinas of Alzheimer’s mice before the typical age at which neurological signs are observed. The results are close to our best-case scenario for outcomes of this project.’
When observing the retinas, the researchers were looking out for the presence of amyloidopathy – amyloid proteins which cause dementia – in the retina.
Study co-author Robert Vince, said:
‘First, effective treatments need to be administered well before patients show actual neurological signs.
‘Second, since there are no available early detection techniques, drugs currently cannot be tested to determine if they are effective against early Alzheimer’s disease.
‘An early diagnostic tool like ours could help the development of drugs as well.’
Clinical trials are to start in July to test the technology in humans. The study was published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
Find out more about how dementia is diagnosed by clicking here.