- Alzheimer's disease affects the retina in the exact way it affects the brain
- Curcumin, a substance in turmeric helps detect the presence of amyloid plaque in the retina when scanned
- The noninvasive eye scan detects the key signs of Alzheimer's years before patients show any symptoms
Alzheimer's disease was found to affect the retina of the eye, exactly to the way it affects the brain, reveal investigators of Cedars-Sinai neuroscience.
The findings of the study revealed that an investigational, noninvasive eye scan could help detect the key signs of Alzheimer's disease, years before patients could experience the symptoms.
‘More than 5 million Americans are suffering from Alzheimer's disease and is expected to triple by 2050.’
The research team detected the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease such as amyloid-beta deposits, a buildup of toxic proteins by using a high-definition eye scan developed exclusively for this study.
The findings of this study show a major advancement in identifying people who are at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease years sooner.
The study was published in JCI Insight
, and there is a sharp rise in the number of people affected by Alzheimer's disease.
Signs of Alzheimer's Disease Detected
There are more than 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer's disease and is expected to triple by 2050, reveal the Alzheimer's Association.
Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, Ph.D., study's senior lead author, a principal investigator and associate professor in the departments of Neurosurgery and Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai said that the findings of this study suggest that the retina can serve as a reliable source for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease.
She also said that one of the major advantages of analyzing the retina is the repeatability. This allows the research team to monitor patients closely to check the progression of the disease.
Another key finding from this study was the discovery of amyloid plaques, which was previously overlooked in the peripheral regions of the retina, said Yosef Koronyo, MSc, the first author on the study, a research associate in the Department of Neurosurgery.
He also noted that there was a correlation between the plaque amount in the retina and the plaque amount present in specific areas of the brain.
Koronyo said, "Now we know exactly where to look to find the signs of Alzheimer's disease as early as possible."
The findings of this study offer hope for early detection when intervention could be most effective, said Keith L. Black, who co-led the study, MD, chair of Cedars-Sinai's Department of Neurosurgery and director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute.
Black said, "Our hope is that eventually the investigational eye scan will be used as a screening device to detect the disease early enough to intervene and change the course of the disorder with medications and lifestyle changes."
Role of Curcumin In Detecting Alzheimer's
For decades, officially the only way to diagnose this condition was to survey and then analyze a patient's brain after the patient is dead.
Recently, physicians have been relying on Positron emission tomography (PET) scans. PET helps to scan the brains of living people and provides evidence of the disease. However, the technology is expensive and invasive, as the patient needs to be injected with radioactive tracers.
The Cedars-Sinai research team has collaborated with investigators at NeuroVision Imaging, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, University of Southern California, and UCLA to find a more cost-effective and noninvasive eye screening approach to humans.
The results published are based on a clinical trial conducted on 16 Alzheimer's disease patients. These patients drank a solution that had curcumin, which is a natural component of the spice turmeric.
The amyloid plaque in the retina to "lights up" and is caused due to curcumin and can be easily detected when scanned. These patients were then compared to a group of younger and cognitively normal individuals.
Alzheimer's disease is Irreversible
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease and is irreversible, which is a growing public health problem among the elderly. AD destroys memory and thinking skills, which can worsen over time and eventually can make it difficult for individuals to carry out simpler tasks.
AD usually affects the elderly though it is not a part of the normal aging process. There is no current cure but treatment for symptoms are available.
After one reaches forty years, the disease begins to affect the brain tissues. For reasons not well understood, these plaques take over healthy brain tissues, devastating the areas of the brain associated with the intellectual function.
Not all memory loss is connected to Alzheimer's disease. Many people experience trouble with memory as they age; and if AD affects your ability to function or communicate, it's best to visit the doctor.
- Yosef Koronyo, David Biggs, Ernesto Barron, David S. Boyer, Joel A. Pearlman, William J. Au, Shawn J. Kile, Austin Blanco, Dieu-Trang Fuchs, Adeel Ashfaq, Sally Frautschy, Gregory M. Cole, Carol A. Miller, David R. Hinton, Steven R. Verdooner, Keith L. Black, Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui. Retinal amyloid pathology and proof-of-concept imaging trial in Alzheimer's disease. JCI Insight (2017). DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.93621