A new study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science details plans for human testing for a new experimental eye test for Alzheimer’s disease. This new testing method has already been used successfully on mice, and should begin testing on humans as early as August, 2016.
In another journal, Neurology, information was shown on early indications of Alzheimer’s, which can be seen as early as childhood in people who are genetically predisposed to developing the disease.
Each year, more than 7.5 million people are diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease, which affects memory, cognitive ability, personality, and behavior. Approximately one third of all senior citizens suffering from dementia are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota teamed with CytoViva, an Alabama-based imaging technology company, in order to develop a non-invasive diagnostic tool that detects the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, well before the typical symptoms appear, at which point treatment options are limited and minimally effective.
By detecting the disease during its early stages, by locating abnormally formed brain proteins amyloid beta and tau, better treatment options may be available, giving a boost to the chances of a successful management of the disease.
In the time between the development of abnormal proteins and the onset of classic Alzheimer’s symptoms, small tangles of proteins called plaques develop. These plaques slowly kill off brain cells, eventually manifesting as diminished cognitive ability. Once these cells are dead, there is no way to revive or replace them, and the damage is irreversible. Catching the disease before the plaques can form is the best way of preventing the brain from dying a slow death.
As this is the first test that shows any hope of being able to detect Alzheimer’s early on, the possibility of developing drugs that may slow its progression hinge on its success. Until now, no such drugs have been developed. “First, effective treatments need to be administered well before patients show actual neurological signs. Second, since there are no available early detection techniques, drugs currently cannot be tested to determine if they are effective against early Alzheimer’s disease. An early diagnostic tool like ours could help the development of drugs as well,” said Robert Vince, co-author of the study.