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    Fundus imaging results promising for early Alzheimer’s diagnosis

    Studies in mice suggest that a technology based on topical endoscope fundus imaging could allow early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have said.

    “We saw changes in the retinas of Alzheimer’s mice before the typical age at which neurological signs are observed,” said co-author Swati More of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (UMN), in a press release. “The results are close to our best-case scenario for outcomes of this project.”

    Dr More and colleagues published the findings in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science

    “Early detection of Alzheimer’s is critical for two reasons,” said co-author Robert Vince, also of UMN, in the press release.

    “First, effective treatments need to be administered well before patients show actual neurological signs. Second, since there are no available early detection techniques, drugs currently cannot be tested to determine if they are effective against early Alzheimer’s disease. An early diagnostic tool like ours could help the development of drugs as well.” 

    Related: Fundus perimetry may alter management of glaucoma

    Whether or not the eyes are the “windows of the soul” as the French poet Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas suggested, they do provide the closest thing you can get to a direct view of the brain without surgery.

    “The retina of the eye is not just ‘connected’ to the brain—it is part of the central nervous system,” said Dr More.

    Already researchers have documented changes to the retinal vasculature and optic disc, retinal cell loss, and thinning of the retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL) in people with Alzheimer’s, but these were not specific to the disease.

    NeuroVision Imaging (Sacramento, CA, USA) has developed retinal fluorescence photography to scan the supranuclear region of the retina for a fluorescent signature typical of plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s, the researchers note. But this approach requires administration of curcumin prior to imaging, which binds to the plaques.

    Recent: Ease of ultra-widefield retinal imaging appeals to physicians, patients

    In a previous study of flat-mounted retinas from transgenic Alzheimer's mice (APP/PS1), the UMN team showed through hyperspectral dark-field microscopy that certain optical property aberrations of the retina are unique to Alzheimer’s, correlate with Alzheimer’s progression, and occur before retinal plaques can be observed. 

    The researchers observed optical signals consistent with Rayleigh light scattering changes in the spectrum from whole mount APP/PS1 mice retinas and their age-matched counterparts. They speculated that these changes could be from the assemblies of amyloid beta molecules.

    Research progression

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