Eye exam detects signs of Alzheimer's disease

An Eye Doctor may help diagnose Alzheimer’s before its symptoms

An Eye Doctor may help diagnose Alzheimer’s before its symptoms

In a new study, researchers may have inched closer to detecting early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease simply by initiating a quick eye exam.

The new research raises the prospect of opticians with access to the technology checking brain health at the same time as they update spectacle prescriptions.

The OCTA machines, relatively a new noninvasive technology, measures blood vessels that can not be seen during a regular eye examination.

The blood vessel changes were noted in the eyes of 39 Alzheimer's patients as part of a study involving 133 people in a control group. In addition, a specific layer of the retina was thinner in those with Alzheimer's.

"The company's Australian arm, IBM Research, Australia, undertook a research and published its findings in journal Scientific Reports". It enables physicians to see the smallest blood vessels in the back of the eye that are smaller than the width of a human hair.

Potentially the test could spot warning signs of Alzheimer's before vascular abnormalities show up on brain scans, which can only highlight larger blood vessels, she added.

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A new kind of precise and non-invasive imaging called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) has assisted much of the recent research on the eye's connection with Alzheimer's.

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

"While a wide range of other proposed blood tests for Alzheimer's disease are being developed, this is the first study to use a machine learning approach to identify sets of proteins in blood that are predictive of a biomarker in spinal fluid", notes the researcher for IBM's genomics research team. But such techniques to study the brain are invasive and costly. Our work is not done.

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. "If we can detect these blood vessel changes in the retina before any changes in cognition, that would be a game changer".

According to researchers, the ultimate goal would be to use this technology to detect Alzheimer's early before symptoms of memory loss are evident and then be able to monitor these changes over time in individuals of clinical trials looking for new Alzheimer's treatments. More than 500,000 people in Britain suffer from Alzheimer's and the total is rising, but most are diagnosed too late to do anything about it.

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