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Alzheimer’s eye test detecting ‘rogue proteins’ draws closer

Clinical trials for an eye test that can detect Alzheimer’s disease before it damages the brain could be under way in less than two years, according to world-first research led by Western Sydney University.

Researchers produced unique antibodies that detect rogue proteins called ‘amyloid beta oligomer’ that accumulate in the retina and have been linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

A/Prof Mourad Tayebi.

While scientists already know these rouge proteins can be detected as early as two decades before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, this is the first time they have been detected in the eye before clinical disease and brain damage have ensued.

Research senior author, Associate Professor Mourad Tayebi from Western Sydney University’s School of Medicine, said the study’s finding could, with adequate funding, pave the way for clinical trials in less than two years.

“Scientists have previously known that these rogue proteins accumulate in blood, but this is the first time they’ve been found in the eye before disease manifestation. This could lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and new diagnostic approaches which could enable the first routine eye-check for Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

“Alzheimer’s disease has reached ‘epidemic’ proportions and represents a substantial health burden, affecting the quality of life of millions of patients and their families. Introducing these routine eye-checks that could catch the disease before it impacts the brain could change the lives of millions.”

The research was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring and supported by an Ainsworth Medical Research Innovation Fund Grant awarded to Associate Professor Tayebi, and an Australian Government Research Training Program Stipend Scholarship for PhD support awarded to research first author Umma Habiba from Western Sydney University’s School of Medicine.

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