Researchers discover retina may provide clues for Alzheimer’s disease

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Cedars-Sinai researchers have conducted a study that revealed how the retina can offer insight into the progression of cognitive deterioration, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The Los Angeles hospital’s department of neurosurgery found that certain areas of the retina, which is the lining in the back of the eye, are more affected by Alzheimer’s than other portions of the organ.

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“These clues can occur very early on in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease – several decades before symptoms appear,” said Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, Ph.D., associate professor of Neurosurgery and Biomedical Sciences and co-corresponding author of the study. “Detecting these signs can help diagnose the disease more accurately, allowing for earlier and more effective treatment intervention.”

Results from the study, which were published in the journal “Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring,” came from a clinical trial of people over 40 who had signs of cognitive decline.

Researchers used sectoral retinal amyloid imaging to capture participants’ retinal images. Directly connected to the brain, the retina is the sole central nervous system tissue that scientists can access for noninvasive, high-resolution imaging.

Once the images were captured, researchers evaluated them through a new process that could identify certain outer regions in the retina that corresponded better to brain damage and cognitive standing. Researchers saw images in which patients had an increased buildup of retinal amyloid protein. That indicated a higher possibility of developing cognitive impairments or Alzheimer’s disease.

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Referring to the Cedars-Sinai research and another study involving lab mice that was recently published in the journal “Aging Cell,” Dr. Keith Black remarked on how they can impact future studies.

“This work may guide future brain and retinal imaging studies to detect Alzheimer’s disease, assess disease progression and identify first-ever treatment options,” the professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery said.

The findings come days after research from a University of Missouri was announced, in which assistant professor in the MU School of Health Professions Andrew Kiselica, reviewed data from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center and particularly focused on the patients that had a buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain. His research showed that patients who had the buildup were more likely to show Alzheimer’s-related symptoms as compared to patients who had none.

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