How to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s with a simple eye exam before symptoms
University of Minnesota (UMN) scientists and associates have developed new technology that can detect signs of Alzheimer’s before the onset of symptoms, early enough to give drugs a chance to work, in mice and humans by simply examining the back of their eyes.
Looking at Alzheimer’s effects through the eye is a key advantage of the new technology. “The retina of the eye is not just ‘connected’ to the brain, it is part of the central nervous system,” said Swati More, PhD, of the Center for Drug Design at UMN, co-author of a paper recently published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS).
The brain and retina undergo similar changes due to Alzheimer’s disease, he said, but “unlike the brain, the retina is easily accessible to us. We saw changes in the retinas of Alzheimer’s mice before the typical age at which neurological signs are observed.”
Human clinical trials are set to start in July to test the technology in humans who are 40–75 years old
Early detection of Alzheimer’s is critical for two reasons. “First, effective treatments need to be administered well before patients show actual neurological signs,” said co-author Robert Vince, PhD, of the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota (UMN).
“Second, since there are no available early detection techniques, drugs currently cannot be tested to determine if they are effective against early Alzheimer’s disease. An early diagnostic tool like ours could help the development of drugs as well.”