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
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral