Study finds eye test may spot Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear

Modesto Morganelli
Marzo 13, 2019

The research was supported by National Institutes of Health (P30EY005722), the 2018 Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, and the Karen L. Wrenn Alzheimer's Disease Award. And they showed that they can distinguish between people with Alzheimer's and those with only mild cognitive impairment. The new test uses an imaging technique, optical coherence tomography angiography (Octa),... This latest research is the largest study to date and adds to the current literature as scientists strive to find a quick, noninvasive, and affordable way to detect Alzheimer's at the earliest stages.

Their study of 200 people, published in the journal Ophthalmology Retina, showed that those with Alzheimer's had a less dense coating of blood vessels at the back of the eye, with gaps appearing in places. 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.

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. Changes in blood vessels density in the retina may indicate similar activity within the brain which occurs with the disease; these changes may even occur before symptoms become noticeable which is why this eye scan could be groundbreaking. After controlling for other factors, the researchers found this change to be statistically significant.

The typical process for diagnosing Alzheimer's isn't a fun one. By the time these changes are noticed, the disease is advanced. However, new research may have found the next breakthrough in pinpointing early signs of the disease, no pain or inconvenience required.

This correlation could mean big things for the future of Alzheimer's diagnoses. It is possible that these changes in blood vessel density in the retina may mirror what's going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain.

Alzheimer's disease is now diagnosed once symptoms appear, such as memory troubles and perception problems. "This work is not done, if we can detect these changes to the retina blood vessels before any changes in cognition, than that would be a game changer." explains Dr. Sharon Fekrat.

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