Pioneering research is using the eye to help detect Alzheimer’s disease

Posted on 31st January 2018

Today Alzheimer’s Research UK has announced a unique new funding partnership for two novel research projects exploring how the eye can be used as a window into the brain.

In partnership with the charitable organisation Fight for Sight, Alzheimer’s Research UK has co-committed £30,000 worth of funding for two, one-year long research projects. Both pioneering studies will investigate links between the eye and Alzheimer’s disease in more depth.

Researchers at the University of Southampton, the location for the first of two funded projects, will investigate how the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein, amyloid, is also involved in the degenerative eye condition age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Scientists will hone in on how amyloid present in the substance that fills the centre of the eye, changes with both age and progression of AMD. This research will help further explore whether changes in amyloid levels could be an effective marker to distinguish whether an individual at risk of AMD will go on to develop the disease before they start to lose their sight.

The second project led by a team at University College London will create a large database of eye scans, imaging a specific structure at the back of the eye known as the retina. The researchers will analyse a collection of over two million eye scans and develop an impressive computer programme to learn which of the scans show build-up of the amyloid protein. The images will also be linked anonymously to a patient’s medical records, where the images can be matched against a person’s individual risk or severity of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists believe that this could be developed into a screening tool to be able to detect Alzheimer’s disease earlier. The work will also give a better understanding of why people with Alzheimer’s disease may also experience problems with their vision.

Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer of Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“These new and exciting research projects will explore, in detail, how we can use the eye as a window into the brain. This work will allow us to establish whether specific changes in the eye can help us detect the disease processes associated with dementia.

“By collaborating with other charities like Fight for Sight we are able to help invest money into exciting new interdisciplinary research projects. As Alzheimer’s Research UK receives no government funding for the research we fund, it is only down to the generosity of our supporters that new exciting projects such as this can get underway.”

Fight for Sight CEO, Michele Acton, also said:

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK to fund these projects. Funding research is vital to help us make an impact on the lives of this generation and the next. By working in partnership with charities outside of our sector we can learn so much more about complex conditions such as sight loss and Alzheimer’s.”

Posted in Science news