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Noninvasive eye scan can detect key signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in humans.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder as well as the leading cause of senile dementia worldwide, with no effective treatment and limited functionality for early diagnosis.  Now, a study led by researchers at Cedars-Sinai provides the scientific basis for using noninvasive eye imaging to detect the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. The team states their technology scans the retina to identify beta-amyloid protein deposits mirroring those found in the brain.  The opensource study is published in the journal JCI Insight.

Previous studies show accumulations of toxic beta-amyloid protein in the brain of AD patients can be detected with positron emission tomography (PET) and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, however, these are invasive, inconvenient, and costly.  Past studies from the lab provided the first evidence for the existence of Alzheimer’s-specific plaques in the human retina and demonstrated the ability to detect individual plaques in live mouse models using a modified ophthalmic device.  The current study supports the translation of the group’s retinal optical imaging approach in humans.

The current study demonstrates the feasibility to noninvasively detect and quantify amyloid deposits in the retinas of patients by using a solid lipid curcumin fluorochrome and a modified point Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (SLO).  Results show analysis reveals retinal plaque clusters, or ‘hot spots,’ containing the most toxic forms of beta-amyloid with specific distribution patterns in superior peripheral regions.  Data findings show feasibility for noninvasively imaging and quantifying retinal amyloid deposits in living patients has been demonstrated. 

The team states they present a quantitative and detailed histological report of retinal beta-amyloid deposits and the pathological hallmarks of AD, including their distribution and ultrastructure in AD patients.  They go on to add retinal amyloid imaging technology, capable of detecting discrete deposits at high resolution, may present a sensitive yet inexpensive tool for screening populations at risk of AD, assessing disease progression, and monitoring response to therapy.

The team surmises their data links Alzheimer’s-related pathologies in the retina and neuronal loss.  For the future, the researchers state the next step is to continue with clinical trials to ensure the technology is ready for the medical community to help manage this disease.

Source: Cedars-Sinai 

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