A new, innovative non-invasive eye scan for Alzheimer’s may be able to detect the disease in a matter of seconds, according to the findings of two recent studies. Moreover, this new diagnostic technology may be able to catch the disease early in people who are predisposed to the disease, before the onset of symptoms. The need for a simple, non-invasive scan like this is growing, as the world’s population is aging, and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise. Current diagnostic approaches such as memory tests, behavioral tracking, brain scans, and spinal taps are either costly, invasive, or catch symptoms as the disease has already progressed (Sandoiu, 2018). The key benefits of this eye scan are that it is a simple, non-invasive test that has the potential to not only detect Alzheimer’s, but to determine who has a higher risk of developing it later in life. In turn, the results of this test can give patients and doctors time to implement certain lifestyle changes or treatments that can help to possibly slow or even mitigate the disease risk.
Ophthalmological researchers from Duke University ran a study to investigate this novel eye scan for early and quick Alzheimer’s detection, and found that it could be an effective diagnostic tool. Investigators used a technique called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) to analyze the link between the eyes’ retinas and signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers compared the retinas of a group of people who had Alzheimer’s with another group who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI), in addition to a separate group who had no cognitive impairment. It was discovered that the people with Alzheimer’s had experienced a loss of small blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. Moreover, they learned that a layer of the retina was thinner in the people with Alzheimer’s than in those with MCI or compared to those who did not have any cognitive impairment. The scientists from this study hypothesized that changes in the retina were due to disruptions in the brain’s blood vessels that are caused by Alzheimer’s (Sandoiu, 2018).
The second study, which was run by a team of ophthalmological researchers at Sheba Medical Center in Israel, revealed that those with a higher genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease had a thinner retina. Moreover, they learned that the hippocampus was smaller in this group of people (Sandoiu, 2018). The hippocampus is a key brain region for memory and learning and is one of the first areas of the brain that gets affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia reduces the ability of the hippocampus to achieve neurogenesis, which is a process that leads to the formation of new neurons.
The findings of these studies demonstrate that this eye scan presents a significant advancement in the ability to detect Alzheimer’s early in those with a high genetic predisposition. Moreover, it may be an effective diagnostic alternative that is quick and non-invasive. As a result of these developments, people can utilize earlier treatment and lifestyle interventions that can potentially delay the onset of the disease or even lower the risk of developing it later in life.
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Sandoiu, A. (2018, October 30). Eye scan may detect Alzheimer’s disease in seconds. Retrieved January 27, 2019, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323515.php