Reduced blood vessels at the back of the eye can be a new, non-invasive way to diagnose early cognitive impairment, as the precursor of Alzheimer's disease, where people become forgetful, reports a recently published Northwestern Medicine study.
Researchers discovered these vascular changes in the human eye, non-invasively, with an infrared camera and without the need for dyes or expensive MR scanners. The back of the eye is optically available for a new type of technology (OCT angiography) that can quantify capillary changes in great detail and with outstanding resolution, making the eye an ideal mirror for what's happening in the brain.
"When our results are validated, this approach could potentially provide an additional type of biomarker to identify people at high risk of developing into Alzheimer's," said Dr. Amani Fawzi, Professor of Ophthalmology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medical Doctor. "These people can then be followed closely and could be leading candidates for new therapies for the purpose of slowing the progression of the disease or preventing the occurrence of dementia associated with Alzheimer's."
Therapy for Alzheimer's is more effective if they are started before extensive brain damage and cognitive decline have occurred, Fawzi, Cyrus Tang and Lee Jampol Professor of Ophthalmology added.
The study was published on April 2 in PLOS ONE .
It is known that patients with Alzheimer's have decreased retinal blood and fluid density, but it was not known if these changes also occur in people with early Alzheimer's or forgetful mild cognitive impairment who are at greater risk of progressing to dementia. .
Multi-center trials could be implemented using this simple technology in Alzheimer's clinics. Larger datasets will be important for validating the cursor as well as finding the best algorithm and combination of tests that will detect high-risk subjects, says Sandra Weintraub, co-author and professor of neurology and psychiatry and behavioral science at Feinberg. 1
Now, the team hopes to correlate these results with other more standardized (but also more invasive) types of Alzheimer's biomarkers and explore the longitudinal changes in eye parameters in these subjects.
"Ideally, the retinal findings would correlate well with other brain biomarkers," Fawzi says. "Long-term studies are also important to see if the retinal capillaries will change more dramatically in those who gradually decrease and develop Alzheimer's dementia."
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Eyes reveal early Alzheimer's disease (2019, April 5)
April 6, 2019
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