Researchers Detect Early Stages Of Alzheimer’s Disease In Mice With An Eye Exam

Image courtesy of UMN Health YouTube

Could it be possible to detect Alzheimer’s disease in the early stages with just an eye exam? That’s the possibility researchers are floating after they were able to spot signs of Alzheimer’s in the retinas of mice using a special, non-invasive camera.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Center for Drug Design recently published a study about their work with mice in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, discussing how they explored using a camera to study the retina and search for signs of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers flashed a light into the eyes of mice, and then analyzed the patterns produced by that light reflecting off the retina. They were then able to visualize clear patterns of changes suggesting the eventual development of the disease, because the patterns would change as amyloid plaque built up. Deposits of such protein are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Using currently available detection methods, you have to wait until the plaque is formed to identify Alzheimer’s disease,” said Robert Vince, Ph.D., director of the Center for Drug Design. “This technology is a noninvasive way to identify Alzheimer’s disease before plaque is formed.”

While the device hasn’t been used on humans yet, researchers hope that eventually it’ll be included as part of the average annual eye exam. The technology is now entering a Phase I trial in humans aiming to detect changes in patients with Alzheimer’s compared to healthy volunteers.

“We are very excited about moving this study into Phase I human trials,” said Swati More, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Center for Drug Design. “We have had great success with animal models and believe the technology is very promising for humans as well.”