Current tests for Alzheimer's include expensive analyses using brain PET or MRI imaging. But two studies have shown that a simple eye test can detect Alzheimer's accurately at very early stages — just by looking at subjects' retinas.
Alzheimer's causes the loss of neurons and synapses in the brain and the accumulation of plaques and tangles of the protein beta-amyloid. The studies looked for signs of that protein in the retina. How? In one study, by having subjects ingest curcumin, which binds to protein to function as a "fluorescent tag," making the beta-amyloid visible in the eyes of subjects with the disease during conventional eye imaging.
According to the Telegraph, the test mirrored the results of more conventional detection methods. Similarly, a second study created a fluorescent tag for beta-amyloid and applied it to the lens of the eye, which was then checked with laser scanning with 85 per cent accuracy.
It's a fascinating and important piece of news: early detection is an important and difficult aspect of Alzheimer's, and tests like these could improve it hugely. This is also far from the only recent revelation about new testing methods: both odour and blood tests are being studied with surprisingly accurate results, too. [The Independent]
Image: Australis Photography.