Eye scan can reveal changes associated with Alzheimer's disease

Grant Boone
March 14, 2019

The primary aim for researchers was to spot retinal degeneration that may be particularly linked to Alzheimer's disease. They found that in people with Alzheimer's disease the web of vessels was less dense and more sparse in certain places. The differences in density were statistically significant after researchers controlled for factors including age and sex.

Because the retina is an extension of the brain and shares many similarities with the brain, researchers believe that the deterioration in the retina may mirror the changes going on in the blood vessels in the brain, thereby offering a window into the disease process.

The new study's authors propose reduced blood flow to the eyes may be because the protein that signals blood vessels to grow and proliferate is found at low levels in people with Alzheimer's. In addition, a specific layer of the retina was thinner in those with Alzheimer's.

It enables physicians to see blood vessels in the back of the eye that are smaller than the width of a human hair. Their results were published Monday in the journal Ophthalmology Retina.

The technique called Octa (optical coherence tomography angiography) could revolutionise treatment of the devastating neurological disorder.

"It can't be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease quite yet".

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The peptide known as amyloid-beta has been proven to change prior to visible memory-related issues, and examination of the concentration of the amyloid-beta in the spinal fluid can provide an indication of the risk of Alzheimer's disease years before it can occur.

Diagnosing Alzheimer's is a challenge. Earlier diagnosis would also give patients and their families time to plan for the future. The medical field for one could stand to benefit, and IBM is putting its resources to work in a new AI blood test that could help detect Alzheimer's ahead of time.

They looked at the retinas of 200 people using a new non-invasive technology that takes high-resolution images of the retina.

Now the only ways to definitively diagnose Alzheimer's are through expensive brain scans or by taking a fluid sample from the patient's spinal cord.

They say this loss of blood vessels may mirror what's going on in other tiny blood vessels in the brain, even before a patient develops memory loss.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, and affects as many as 5 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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