Forbes (July 16, 2014): Can An Eye Test Predict Alzheimer's? Scientists Unveil New Vision Scans

Publication Date: 
Wed, 07/16/2014

A simple eye test could soon reveal whether you have Alzheimer’s Disease – or even if the disease looms in your future. In fact, according to trial results released this week, the vision test detected signs of Alzheimer’s 15 to 20 years before the appearance of clinical signs.

This potentially game-changing news comes out of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, currently ongoing in Copenhagen, Denmark, where two presentations highlighted the potential of new vision screening technologies that use retinal imaging to measure amyloid plaque formation in the back of the eye.

The technology is based on an astoundingly simple idea: The brain-clogging amyloid plaques considered an indicator of Alzheimer’s can also be seen in the back of the eye, which is considered a mirror for brain health. ”If this test works, then one day screening for Alzheimer’s disease may be as simple as getting your eyes checked,” said Yogi Kanagasingam, one of the researchers conducting clinical trials.

The first test, from Neurovision Imaging of Sacramento, California, utilizes retinal image fluorescence photography to scan the supranucleus region of the retina for a fluorescent signature characteristic of beta amyloid plaques. In preparation for the scan, participants take curcumin, the ingredient in turmeric that gives the spice its fluorescent yellow color, to “light up” the amyloid plaques with a specific fluorescent signature.

Preliminary data released on 40 trial subjects showed that levels of amyloid in the retina correlated closely with amyloid levels in the brain as revealed by PET (positron emission tomography) scans, the current detection method of choice.