Eye test may ‘transform’ Alzheimer’s diagnosis

British scientists have developed a new technique for measuring brain cell death in real time in animals. If the technique can be developed to be used in people, it could offer hope for way to diagnose Alzheimer’s at an early stage.

Posted on 14th January 2010

The UCL-led research, published in Cell Death & Disease, uses fluorescent markers that attach to certain cells indicating the stage of cell death. The retina is then observed using a customised ophthalmoscope. This is the first time that the technique – an in vivo demonstration of retinal nerve cell death in Alzheimer’s – has been used on live animal models, rather than cells in the lab. It is anticipated that the technique can be adapted for use in human patients.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said:

“Although this study uses animals, it is hoped that the technique can be modified for human use. These findings have the potential to transform the way we diagnose Alzheimer’s, greatly enhancing efforts to develop new treatments and cures.


“If we spot Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages, we may be able to treat and reverse the progression of the disease as new treatments are developed. Dementia scientists currently lack a way of assessing the brain’s responses to new treatments in realtime; this technique may help overcome that obstacle.

 “700,000 people in the UK live with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and that number is set to double within a generation unless scientists make rapid progress in their race for a cure.”

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