What Eye Exams Can Tell You About Alzheimer’s Disease

A new imaging technique using polarized light may prove to be an affordable and non-invasive method to detect beta-amyloid proteins in the brain, leading to earlier Alzheimer’s detection.What Eye Exams Can Tell You About Alzheimer's

Learn more about the study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

Eye Exams Are Windows to the Brain

Researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2016) in Toronto unveiled new technology using light to detect beta amyloid plaques in the brain. Researchers believe that non-invasive eye exams can detect symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,  including:

  • Changes in how retinal blood vessels respond to light
  • Decreased retinal thickness
  • Presence of beta-amyloid proteins

Researchers at AAIC 2016 focused their study on the retina, located in the back of the eye and composed of nerve tissue. Melanie Campbell, professor of optometry and vision science at the University of Waterloo said that “the eyes are windows in the brain,” and that the amyloid plaques, thought to cause Alzheimer’s, can appear in the back of the eyes on the retina.

Campbell also said that amyloid can leak into the fluid of the eye from the cerebrospinal fluid.

New Technology Uses Polarized Light to Detect Toxic Plaques in Brain

Currently, these toxic amyloid plaques can be detected on retinas using complicated and expensive technology. However, Campbell and her team of researchers have developed a new technology, called “polarimetry.” Polarimetry uses polarized light to detect the presence of amyloid proteins. The detection of amyloid proteins is not a proven method in diagnosing Alzheimer’s, but can show the risk a person may have of developing the disease, leading to earlier detection.

Using cadaver retinas from canines and humans, researchers conducted a series of post-mortem scans on people with Alzheimer’s and people and canines without Alzheimer’s. They found that amyloid deposits were easy to detect using polarimetry and that it was easy to count the plaques and measure their size; something that other current imaging techniques are unable to do.

Researchers hope to further test their findings on humans living with the disease.

How do you feel about eye exams being used as a non-invasive method to detect Alzheimer’s? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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