Research currently underway by scientists from the University College London believe Alzheimer’s and other diseases could be detected by a simple and inexpensive eye test that could be available from high street practices within the next five years.
The non-invasive method uses fluorescent markers, which enable early indication of brain cell death by attaching to dying cells on the retina. The dying cells absorb the fluorescent dye which show up as green dots. (Image Below)
These experiments are currently being tested on mice, but the first human trials could begin this year. This fundamental development has the potential to revolutionise diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease.
Currently 700,000 people in the UK live with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Alzheimer’s disease can only be positively diagnosed by a post-mortem, when microscopic changes caused by the disease are closely examined. Nevertheless doctors can diagnose through process of elimination and costly MRI scans which they refer to as probable Alzheimer’s disease.
The research could enable scientists to overcome the problems and complications of investigating what is happening inside the brain of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Being able to detect Alzheimer’s in its early stages with a simple eye test opens up new avenues for treatments with the possibility to reverse the progression as new drugs are developed.
Professor Francesca Coredeiro, lead author from University College London Institute of Ophthalmology said: “Few people realise that the retina is a direct, albeit thin, extension of the brain.
“It is entirely possible that in the future a visit to a high-street optician to check on your eyesight will also be a check on the state of your brain.”
“I hope that screening for Alzheimer’s will be available on the high street within five years.”
By identifying and comparing retinal cell death over a period of time could support scientists in cataloguing the progression of the disease however much more research is required before any considerations can made to use this technique for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.