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Eye scan could detect Alzheimer’s decades earlier

22/08/2017By Matthew Woodley
A non-invasive eye scan could allow doctors to detect the key signs of Alzheimer’s disease decades earlier than currently possible.

The high-definition eye scanner, which was developed especially for the research, showed patients with the disease had more than twice as much of a telltale brain protein in their retinas as non-sufferers. The breakthrough will hopefully offer people a window for early treatment, when drugs and lifestyle changes are more likely to work, as researchers believe the build up of these proteins begins years before symptoms develop.

Now we know exactly where to look to find the signs of Alzheimer’s disease as early as possible.
Yosef Koronyo

According to the researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who made the breakthrough one of the major advantages of analysing the retina is repeatability, as it allowed them to monitor patients and the progression of their disease.

Mr Yosef Koronyo, a research associate in the Department of Neurosurgery and first author on the study, said another key finding was the discovery of amyloid plaques in previously overlooked peripheral regions of the retina.

“Now we know exactly where to look to find the signs of Alzheimer’s disease as early as possible,” Koronyo said, while noting that the plaque amount in the retina correlated with plaque amount in specific areas of the brain.

Australia also played a role in the dramatic discovery, with the CSIRO forming part of a collaborative team that helped translate the non-invasive eye screening approach to humans.

The published results are based on a clinical trial conducted on 16 Alzheimer’s disease patients who drank a solution that included curcumin, a natural component of the spice turmeric. The curcumin caused amyloid plaque in the retina to ‘light up’ and be detected by the scan, which the researchers then compared with a group of younger, cognitively normal individuals.


More information:

•  The full study.
AFT Pharmaceuticals

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