In the future, your optometrist could be the first person to understand you could have Alzheimer\’s disease (AD). A global team of researchers has discovered the loss of a specific layer of retinal cells may reveal the existence of the disease.
Led by R.C. Chang in the University of Hong Kong, together with researchers from Georgetown University Clinic (GUMC) made the connection by studying a layer of the eye that had not previously been investigated. They will present their findings at Neuroscience 2013, the meeting from the Society for Neuroscience.
“The retina is definitely an extension of the brain so it makes sense to see if exactly the same pathologic processes present in an Alzheimer’s brain are also found in the eye,” explains R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, director from the Memory Disorders Program at GUMC and a member of they. “We all know there’s a connection between glaucoma and Alzheimer’s for the reason that both of them are seen as a lack of neurons, however the mechanisms are not clear.”
Glaucoma is really a group of eye conditions resulting in damage to the optic nerve, also it may cause loss of vision. Normally the condition is brought on by abnormally ruthless within the eye, according to the Mayo Clinic. Turner states that researchers are increasingly seeing glaucoma like a neurodegenerative disease similar to AD.
The neuroscientists used genetically-engineered mice designed to develop Alzheimer\’s for their research. Within the eye, two cell layers transmit information, by way of the optic nerve, in to the brain. These are the retinal ganglion layer and the inner nuclear layer. Most previous studies have focused on the retinal ganglion layer. Once the researchers measured the retinas of the Alzheimer\’s mice, they found both layers were built with a significant loss of thickness. The inner nuclear layer had a 37 percent lack of neurons, and the retinal ganglion layer had a 49 percent loss when compared to healthy mice of the same age.
In humans, the dwelling and thickness of the retina may be easily measured using optical coherence tomography. Fraxel treatments is increasingly finding its way into both research and clinical settings.
Turner states, “This research suggests another path forward in understanding the disease process and could result in new methods to diagnose or predict Alzheimer’s that could be as simple as looking into your eyes.”
These findings offer new hope for glaucoma patients who might be helped by treatments developed for Alzheimer\’s, since the two conditions have parallel disease mechanisms.
Other recent research offers hope of another method to detect Alzheimer\’s in an earlier stage. Researchers at Johns Hopkins gave a battery of cognitive tests to both individuals who showed early indications of memory loss and normal healthy seniors. As the graph of scores for healthy people displayed a symmetrical bell-shaped curve, the graphs of people with dementia shifted to a far more asymmetrical curve. This asymmetry is brought on by an uneven disruption of mental processes, with a few subtle declines appearing before other, more obvious ones. Noting this shift could become another tool for reassuring some people they didn\’t have Alzheimer\’s, while allowing others to start interventions earlier.