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Retina Screening May Detect Alzheimer’s 

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor  Reviewed by John M.
Grohol, Psy.D. On July 13, 2014

findings suggest noninvasive optical imaging can provide early detection of
changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
discovery was made by investigators conducting a clinical trial in Australia
and will be reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference
2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
preliminary results in 40 patients, the test could differentiate between
Alzheimer’s disease and non-Alzheimer’s disease with 100 percent sensitivity
and 80.6 percent specificity, meaning that all people with the disease tested
positive and most of the people without the disease tested negative.”
optical imaging exam appears to detect changes that occur 15-20 years before
clinical diagnosis.
“It’s a
practical exam that could allow testing of new therapies at an earlier stage,
increasing our chances of altering the course of Alzheimer’s disease,” said
Shaun Frost, a biomedical scientist and the study manager.
Black, M.D., professor and chair of Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Neurosurgery
said the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain is a hallmark sign of
Alzheimer’s, but current tests detect changes only after the disease has
advanced to late stages.
believe that as treatment options improve, early detection will be critical,
but existing diagnostic methods are inconvenient, costly, and impractical for
routine screening.
scans require the use of radioactive tracers, and cerebrospinal fluid analysis
requires that patients undergo invasive and often painful lumbar punctures, but
neither approach is quite feasible, especially for patients in the earlier
stages of disease,” he said.
emission tomography, or PET, is the current diagnostic standard.
retina, unlike other structures of the eye, is part of the central nervous
system, sharing many characteristics of the brain. A few years ago, we
discovered at Cedars-Sinai that the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease
occur not only in the brain but also in the retina.
‘staining’ the plaque with curcumin, a component of the common spice turmeric,
we could detect it in the retina even before it began to accumulate in the
device we developed enables us to look through the eye — just as an
ophthalmologist looks through the eye to diagnose retinal disease — and see
these changes.”
clinical trial was designed to enable researchers to correlate retinal plaque
detected by optical imaging with brain plaque detected by PET scans. Studies
involved patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a group with mild cognitive
impairment, and a group of people with no evidence of brain abnormality.
retinal beta-amyloid plaque findings and optical imaging technology began at
Cedars-Sinai with studies in live rodents and the post-mortem investigation of
human retinas of people who had died with Alzheimer’s.
Australian study is one of several in progress to determine if similar results
can be confirmed in humans living with the disease.
large double-blind clinical trial appears to validate our novel human retinal
amyloid imaging approach using curcumin labeling.
further demonstrates significant correlation with brain amyloid burden, thereby
predicting accumulation of plaques in the brain through the retina,” said Maya
Koronyo-Hamaoui, Ph.D, a faculty principal investigator at Cedars-Sinai.


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