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Eye Test Spots Alzheimer's Before Symptoms

Preliminary Research Suggests Eye Test May Aid in Early Detection of Alzheimer's Disease

Eye Changes, Brain Plaque, Alzheimer's Linked continued...

"There is a close relationship between Alzheimer's disease, changes in the retina, and plaque burden in the brain," Frost says.

This isn't the only eye test in development for Alzheimer's. Harvard researchers have developed a pair of optical tests that look for amyloid-beta, a protein that comprises Alzheimer's plaque, in the eye lens. Other researchers are also looking at molecular changes in the eye that might predict the development of the disease.

One question is whether people will want to know whether they are at risk for a disease for which there is no effective treatment.

Without early detection, some doctors say, development of effective treatments will be that much harder. They say that some promising drugs may have failed in testing because the studies enrolled people whose disease was too advanced.

"As we work toward the ultimate goal of preventing and treating Alzheimer's, all the pieces are going to have to come together, and one of these pieces is early detection," William E. Klunk, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a member of the Alzheimer's Association’s Medical & Scientific Advisory Council, tells WebMD.

Frost and colleagues plan to continue studying their test in larger numbers of people.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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