Eye check could detect early signs of Alzheimer's

Eye check could detect early signs of Alzheimer's

Eye check could detect early signs of Alzheimer's

The findings suggest that a loss of blood vessels in the retina could be an marker of the debilitating disease.

Scientists from Duke University in the U.S. found the eye seems to reflect changes taking place deep within the brain.

"It's possible these changes in blood vessel density in the retina may mirror what's going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain".

In addition to the 200 participants, researchers studied 133 healthy control subjects; 39 with Alzheimer's disease, and 37 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

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They found that the blood vessel network was less dense in the Alzheimer's patients compared with the other groups.

In the US alone, 5.8 million people are living with Alzheimer's dementia, according to 2019 data from the Alzheimer's Association. "We already have more definitive ways to diagnose dementia due to Alzheimer's, but we need to see if OTCA can be a useful cost-effective screening test for pre-symptomatic Alzheimer's".

An Alzheimer's diagnosis is now made based on clinical history and cognitive testing, without relying on imaging studies or blood tests.

Prof Fekrat and colleagues said diagnosing Alzheimer's is a challenge.

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"At IBM Research, our mission is to use AI and technology to understand how to help clinicians better detect and ultimately prevent these diseases in their early stages". Similar findings were discovered in 2018. "We know that there are changes that occur in the brain in the small blood vessels in people with Alzheimer's disease, and because the retina is an extension of the brain, we wanted to investigate whether these changes could be detected in the retina using a new technology that is less invasive and easy to obtain", said Dilraj Grewal, M.D., a lead author of the study.

So why may there be poor blood supply to the eyes of people with Alzheimer's? Even though there is now no cure, early diagnosis will allow researchers to study new medications earlier as future treatments may be more effective when given early. OCTA is also not routinely available in eye doctor's offices across the country.

In terms of how the test works, IBM's Ben Goudey says that the team uses machine learning in order to identify a specific biological marker for Alzheimer's called amyloid-beta.

He also claimed that the learning model could drastically slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

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