Alzheimer’s is a terrible and devastating disease that strips millions of people of their memories and cognitive abilities. There are currently few ways of treating it, and even fewer ways of detecting it before it’s sufficiently advanced.
But a new, non-invasive eye scan is proving to be successful in diagnosing the disease far sooner than any other method. This test is able to detect the disease even before the classic symptoms of memory loss and confusion begin to set in.
The new testing method, developed at the University of Waterloo in Canada, involves using polarized light aimed directly onto the retina in order to highlight certain chemical deposits called amyloid proteins. The proteins reflect light differently that the surrounding tissue, and are one of the first signs of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Because the test is based on the reflection of light off of tissue within the eye, there are no drugs or needles required, meaning that it’s completely painless and requires no recovery period at all. Similar tests had been attempted in the past, but were based on the premise that special dyes needed to be injected into the eye. This method forgoes that approach, and instead detects the light using computers that can process the image and reveal reflections that are otherwise impossible to detect with the naked eye.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s is critical in developing new treatment and prevention methods. Currently there is very little that can be done to detect Alzheimer’s, which means that scientists have no way of testing new medicines on patients in the hope that the disease doesn’t continue to progress. By the time it’s known that a patient has the disease, it’s too late for preventative treatments.