Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s in the retina and lens of the eye

Researchers are hopeful that two eye tests can accurately spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease

Scientists believe they have hit upon an early-warning system for identifying Alzheimer’s, after two separate new studies identified a “biomarker” of the disease that can be spotted in an eye test.

Early trials of two different techniques reveal that an indicator for the degenerative disorder can be identified in the retina and lens of the eye. Both methods were able to distinguish between probable Alzheimer’s patients and healthy volunteers with a high level of accuracy.

The scientists behind both projects stressed that their research was still at a very early stage but expressed hope that it could be developed into an eye test which could be used to identify people with the disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of science at the Alzheimer’s Research UK charity welcomed the research.

“It is difficult to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease accurately and, in many cases, by the time the symptoms have developed, damage has already been going on in the brain for a number of years,” he said.

“The development of a quick, cheap, non-invasive test to detect Alzheimer’s would be an important step in helping people receive an early diagnosis, and helping to improve clinical trials so that potential new treatments have the best chance of success,” Dr Ridley added.

The scientists envisage using an eye test as the first step to identifying possible cases of Alzheimer’s, with would be followed by more expensive procedures to confirm the presence of the disease. These include PET – positron emission tomography – scans or spinal fluid analysis.

New methods are being used to detect Alzheimer's New methods are being used to detect Alzheimer's Shaun Frost, from the Australian science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, who led one of the studies, said: “We envision this technology as an initial screen that could complement what is currently used…If further research proves our findings are correct, it could potentially be delivered as part of an individual’s regular eye check-up.”

“The high resolution of our images could also allow accurate monitoring of individual retinal plaques as a possible method to follow progression and response to therapy,” Mr Frost added.

The eye tests are based on the fact that the eye is effectively an extension of the brain. Both studies looked for signs of beta-amyloid protein, which forms in clumps in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and is a key hallmark of the disease.

The Australian study used curcumin, the turmeric spice ingredient, as a fluorescent marker that binds closely with beta-amyloid, allowing it to show up in the retina.

Volunteers were asked to take supplement of curcumin , which was then detected in the eye using a novel imaging system. Preliminary results on 40 participants showed that the test picked up every participant with Alzheimer’s and correctly identified those shown in the brain by PET imaging.

In the other study, researchers from the US company Cognoptix used an ointment to apply a flouescent label to beta-amyloid in the lens of the eye. Laser scanning was then able to detect the protein. In tests of 40 volunteers with and without Alzheimer’s, it identified those having the disease with 85 per cent accuracy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living