Researchers have discovered eye abnormalities that may help reveal features of early-stage Alzheimer's disease.
Using a novel laboratory rat model of Alzheimer's disease and high-resolution imaging techniques, researchers correlated variations of the eye structure, to identify initial indicators of the disease.
Shaomei Wang, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Regenerative Medicine Institute and Department of Biomedical Sciences, said detecting changes in the brain that indicate Alzheimer's disease can be an extremely challenging task.
She said by using the eye as a window to brain activity and function, we may be able to diagnose patients sooner and give them more time to prepare for the future.
Using both animal models and postmortem human retinas from donors with Alzheimer's disease, researchers found changes in the retinal pigment epithelial layer, which harbors the supportive cells located in the back of the eye, and in the thickness of the choroidal layer that has blood vessels providing nutrients to the retina. Changes in these two regions were detected using sophisticated, state-of-the-art imaging and immunological techniques.
With high-resolution, microscopic imaging and visual acuity measurements, investigators were able to monitor tissue degeneration in the cell layer and vascular layer at the back of the eye, as well as decline in visual function, that were strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Alexander Ljubimov, PhD, director of the Eye Program within the Regenerative Medicine Institute and co-author of the study, said that they found that a rat model showed similar signs to the human ailment in the eye. If true in a larger number of humans, these findings may be used to study Alzheimer's disease mechanisms and test potential drugs.