Eye check could detect early signs of Alzheimer's

14 March, 2019, 08:11 | Author: Kara Nash
  • Alzheimer's

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).

Saliva samples were taken from 109 patients who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, or as being healthy. "Now we can look at blood vessels that are at the level of capillaries in the different layers of the retina". Since the retina is considered an "extension" of the brain because it sends signals to the optic nerve to create visual images, they wanted to see if similar blood vessel changes would occur in the eye. The findings suggest that a loss of blood vessels in the retina could be an marker of the debilitating disease.

A new kind of precise and non-invasive imaging called optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) has assisted much of the recent research on the eye's connection with Alzheimer's.

Ophthalmologist and senior author Sharon Fekrat, M.D., Professor of Ophthalmology at Duke, along with lead author Dilraj Grewal, M.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Duke, expect that their work may one day have a positive impact on patients' lives.

This correlation could mean big things for the future of Alzheimer's diagnoses.

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, with symptoms including gradual degradation of memory, confusion, and dementia, which can make many everyday tasks increasingly problematic. By the time these changes are noticed, the disease is advanced. Some techniques can detect signs of the disease but are impractical for screening millions of people: Brain scans are expensive and spinal taps have risks.


It would also give patients time to plan for the future with their families - while they still have their faculties, said the United States team.

Currently, there is no singular test that can diagnose Alzheimer's disease.

Now the only ways to definitively diagnose Alzheimer's are through expensive brain scans or by taking a fluid sample from the patient's spinal cord.

"It's possible that these changes in blood vessel density in the retina could mirror what's going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain, perhaps before we are able to detect any changes in cognition", she added. OCTA machines use light waves that reveal blood flow in every layer of the retina.

Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia affect 850,000 people in the United Kingdom - a figure set to rise to 2 million by 2050 because of the ageing population.

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