Experimental ophthalmology research could detect Alzheimer's, says the study

The encouraging results must be supported by experiments on a larger scale, emphasize the researchers who have achieved this result.

Researchers have described a technique on Thursday, still experimental, which might be able to detect the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease for a day with a simple eye examination.

Damage to the retina. With the aid of an instrument that is often used by ophthalmologists, a team of researchers has observed damage to the retina in some patients. These patients, however, more often showed traces of proteins related to Alzheimer's disease (amyloid and Tau) in their body, suggesting a possible relationship between the two symptoms.

"Most of us have a small area without blood vessels in the center retina, the place responsible for our most accurate vision," says co-author Rajendra Apte, professor of ophthalmology at Washington University. St. Louis. "This area without blood vessels was significantly larger in people with pre-clinical Alzheimer's disease." The study was published Thursday in the American medical journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

New experiments to come. Only 30 patients participated in the experiment, a limited sample that requires new experiments on a larger scale. They were about 75 years old and had no symptoms of Alzheimer's. Moreover, the study did not follow the patients in time to check whether they had actually developed Alzheimer's disease or not. "The experiment should be carried out over a longer period of time over a much larger number of people before conclusions are drawn," warns Doug Brown, research director at the Alzheimer Society.

Alzheimer's can start to damage the brain up to two decades before the first memory loss and early neurological disorders. The central nervous system and the retina are connected, say the researchers, and changes in the brain can be reflected in the cells of the retina.

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