Eye tests may give early warning of Alzheimer's

Ben Davidson
March 14, 2019

While the test is still in the early phases of research, it could potentially help improve the selection of individuals for drug trials: "individuals with mild cognitive impairment who were predicted to have an abnormal concentration of amyloid in their spinal fluid were found to be 2.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease", Ben Goudey, staff researcher, genomics research team, IBM research, wrote in a blog post.

However, in the eyes of 39 people with Alzheimer's disease, that web was less dense and even sparse in places than those of people with mild cognitive impairment and healthy people.

They found that the blood vessel network was less dense in the Alzheimer's patients compared with the other groups.

In the past, some small studies have suggested that there would be differences "in both neuronal and microvascular retinal measures between those with and those without Alzheimer's disease", said Alison Abraham, an associate professor of ophthalmology and director of the Wilmer Eye Institute Biostatistics Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

The new test uses an imaging technique, optical coherence tomography angiography (Octa),...

The peptide known as amyloid-beta has been proven to change prior to visible memory-related issues, and examination of the concentration of the amyloid-beta in the spinal fluid can provide an indication of the risk of Alzheimer's disease years before it can occur.

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, with symptoms including gradual degradation of memory, confusion, and dementia, which can make many everyday tasks increasingly problematic.

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Alzheimer's remains an incurable, fatal disease suffered by millions of people from around the world, and can only be treated by palliative means.

Dr Fekrat said: 'Our work is not done.

"Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is a huge unmet need", Dr. Fekrat said.

Alzheimer's disease is now diagnosed once symptoms appear, such as memory troubles and perception problems. OCTA machines used light waves that reveal blood flow in every layer of the retina.

"It's possible that these changes in blood vessel density in the retina could mirror what's going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain, perhaps before we are able to detect any changes in cognition", she added.

In the US alone, 5.8 million people are living with Alzheimer's dementia, according to 2019 data from the Alzheimer's Association.

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