A Simple Eye Test Could Accurately Detect Alzheimer's

Current tests for Alzheimer's include expensive tests 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.

As you probably already know, 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 first study, led by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, 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.

The results, which were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference today in Copenhagen, showed that the test mirrored the results of more conventional detection methods. Similarly, a second study presented at the conference, led by biotech company Cognoptix Inc., 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 percent 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 odor and blood tests are being studied with surprisingly accurate results, too. [The Telegraph]

Image: Australis Photography.