Alzheimer’s and brain health could soon be detected using an eye exam

Donna Miller
March 14, 2019

The OCTA machines, relatively a new noninvasive technology, measures blood vessels that can not be seen during a regular eye examination. Not only were the researchers able to detect differences between the Alzheimer's patients and the other two groups, but they were also able to see differences among the Alzheimer's patients that appeared to be linked with the severity of the disease. If we can detect these blood vessel changes in the retina before any changes in cognition, that would be a game changer'.

Scientists found the retina was thinner in people with Alzheimer's and they had also lost more small blood vessels at the back of the eye, compared to healthy people and those with mild cognitive impairment, a forerunner to dementia.

Soon, an eye examination may be all that is needed to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at Duke's Health. The test involved a machine that performed optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), a non-invasive procedure that only takes a few minutes. They compared the density and thickness of these blood vessels in 133 healthy individuals, 37 people with mild cognitive impairment (sometimes a precursor to Alzheimer's disease) and 39 people with Alzheimer's disease.

Mr. Ben Goudey, a researcher at Genomics Research Team, Australia, claims that International Business Machine (IBM) learning model has proved capable to detect early onset of terminal neuro-degenerative diseases (Alzheimer's disease).

The test involves looking at blood vessels in the retina, but isn't something that now takes place as part of a normal eye test.

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According to a paper published in 2017, the amyloid-beta located in a person's spinal fluid begins to change and show signs of Alzheimer's decades before the more visible physical ones start presenting themselves.

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is a huge unmet need since it's not possible for current techniques like a brain scan to screen the number of patients with this disease, said Sharon Fekrat, professor of ophthalmology at Duke.

The study suggests that a loss of blood vessels in the retina could be an early warning sign of the degenerative mental condition.

Fekrat says the eyes may be a window to our brain health.

Using the OCTA that uses light waves that reveal blood flow in every layer of the retina, the researches checked more than 200 people. The medical field for one could stand to benefit, and IBM is putting its resources to work in a new AI blood test that could help detect Alzheimer's ahead of time.

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