Seeing Alzheimer's disease

January 12, 2018, University of Minnesota
Credit: University of Minnesota

What if we could diagnose early-stage Alzheimer's disease (AD) by looking into a person's eyes?

A retinal scan technique, developed by researchers in the University's Center for Drug Design (CDD), has the potential to detect AD in its early stages, when treatment may still be possible, and also to allow doctors to trace the progress of treatments and help the 100,000 Minnesotans with AD and their families.

The researchers developed a camera to scan retinas and detect small, soluble aggregates of a protein called A-beta. As AD progresses, the aggregates grow and are eventually deposited in the brain as insoluble clumps called plaques.

"We looked at retinas of [mouse models of AD]," says Bob Vince, CDD director. "We could see the aggregation progress of A-beta."

If the technique proves itself as a way to closely follow AD, it will become of great value to drug discovery companies and long-term clinical care, says Kevin Nickels, a U technology licensing officer.

Science of scattering

In people or mice with early-stage AD, the small A-beta aggregates make retinal cells scatter light beams differently than healthy cells do, a difference the camera detects.

In mice, Vince and colleague Swati More, an assistant professor in CDD, have used the technique to follow the progress of the disease and trace the effects of anti-AD drugs. They have also tested about 20 patients so far, and seek to enroll more in a study of the scans' ability to follow the clinical progression of the disease.

"Advancing this exciting technology will require funding a clinical study of seven to eight years, and this is being discussed with a couple of corporate parties," Nickels notes.

Why test patients early?

"A lot of emphasis today is on getting early AD ," says More. "We could tell patients if treatments are working, or recommend further psychological testing."

Explore further: Alzheimer's detected before symptoms via new eye technology

Related Stories

Alzheimer's detected before symptoms via new eye technology

July 11, 2016
Rockville, Md. Scientists may have overcome a major roadblock in the development of Alzheimer's therapies by creating a new technology to observe—in the back of the eye—progression of the disease before the onset of symptoms. ...

Biomarker may predict early Alzheimer's disease

November 10, 2017
Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have identified a peptide that could lead to the early detection of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The discovery, published in Nature Communications, may ...

Findings could lead to early diagnosis of Alzheimer's

September 26, 2017
Korean researchers have identified the cause of olfactory dysfunction in the early stage of Alzheimer's diseases. It is expected to be used in early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and therapeutic research.

Never before seen images of early stage Alzheimer's disease

March 13, 2017
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have used the MAX IV synchrotron in Lund – the strongest of its kind in the world - to produce images that predate the formation of toxic clumps of beta-amyloid, the protein believed ...

BACE-Inhibitor successfully tested in Alzheimer's animal model

July 28, 2017
The protein amyloid beta is believed to be the major cause of Alzheimer's disease. Substances that reduce the production of amyloid beta, such as BACE inhibitors, are therefore promising candidates for new drug treatments. ...

Drug's effect on Alzheimer's may depend on severity of disease

July 16, 2014
A cancer drug that has shown promise against Alzheimer's disease in mice and has begun early clinical trials has yielded perplexing results in a novel mouse model of AD that mimics the genetics and pathology of the human ...

Recommended for you

Exercise may delay cognitive decline in people with rare Alzheimer's disease

September 25, 2018
For individuals carrying a genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer's disease, engaging in at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week may have beneficial effects on markers of Alzheimer's disease brain changes and may ...

Scientists reveal ground-breaking plan to target cause of Alzheimer's disease

September 24, 2018
A breakthrough has been made in the fight against Alzheimer's disease—researchers have found a new way to target the toxic particles that destroy healthy brain cells.

A biomarker in the brain's circulation system may be Alzheimer's earliest warning

September 24, 2018
USC scientists say Alzheimer's could be diagnosed earlier if scientists focus on an early warning within the brain's circulation system.

In landmark study, doctors say test identifies people most likely to get Alzheimer's

September 24, 2018
The beginning was the worst. It frustrated Janet Parkerson when her father started to forget what he had done that day or the day before.

Study clarifies ApoE4's role in dementia

September 20, 2018
ApoE4, a protein linked to both Alzheimer's disease and a form of dementia caused by damage of blood vessels in the brain, increases the risk of cognitive impairment by reducing the number and responsiveness of blood vessels ...

Machine learning IDs markers to help predict Alzheimer's

September 19, 2018
Nearly 50 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. These irreversible brain disorders slowly cause memory loss and destroy thinking skills, eventually to such an extent that self-care ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.