Scientists from the University of Minnesota have found a new way to observe the progression of Alzheimer’s before the onset of symptoms by monitoring the back of the eye. While so far the technique has only been used on mice, human trials are scheduled to start later this month.
Early detection of the disease is crucial in order to develop effective treatments
Detecting the early signs of Alzheimer’s is an important step for both diagnosis and treatment. For a treatment to be effective, it needs to be given before patients exhibit actual neurological signs. However, as there are no early detection techniques currently available, it’s very difficult to determine whether drugs are effective against the early stages of the disease. At the moment, the only accurate confirmation of Alzheimer’s disease is during a post-mortem autopsy. By being able to develop this new diagnostic tool, the team are not just helping to identify the disease earlier, but they’re also helping the development of effective Alzheimer’s drugs too.
The scientists used their new technology to observe changes to the retinas of Alzheimer’s mice
To develop the new technology the team used mice models of Alzheimer’s aged between 3 and 8 months. Using hyperspectral endoscopy they were able to detect changes in the retinas of these mice. The retina is not only connected to the brain, but is part of the central nervous system, therefore it undergoes similar changes as those that happen to the brain during Alzheimer’s. However unlike the brain, the retina is very accessible, so it’s easier to observe any changes that may occur.
Changes to the retina were noted at a much earlier age than they expected
By observing changes to the retinas of the Alzheimer’s mice they could clearly see that changes to the retina occurred before the typical age where they would normally expect to see neurological signs.
Human trials scheduled to be underway later this month
The results of the study were published in a recent edition of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, which also states that trials will be carried out on humans in July.