Researchers have found that a simple eye exam could be critical in detecting Alzheimer's Disease years, if not decades, before memory loss begins.
Beta amyloids are proteins that look like bright dots and are typically found in the brain of Alzheimer's patients. However, new the new studies have shown that the beta amyloids are also found in the retina of the eye.
"What makes it unique is that the retina is actually an extension of the brain and so we think that a lot of the pathology that is occurring in the brain may also be occurring in the retina," said Dr. James Galvin is a neurologist at New York University Langone Medical Center.
Shaun Frost, an Australian researcher, tested 40 people using a liquid form of curcumin - a natural substance that makes curry yellow. The curcumin sticks to the beta amyloids, making it possible for doctors to see the proteins with a simple eye exam. Frost revealed that he was able to identify 100 percent of the participants who had the disease.
Because Alzheimer's currently has no cure, many people have wondered why it is so important to detect it early on. Galvin explained that early detection is vital to treating the disease. "Well, for several reasons. So we have medicines today that treat the symptoms of the disease, so you'd like to be able to pick up the disease as soon as possible, so you can start someone on an available medicine. But more importantly, in order to develop new therapies, we need to be able to identify people at the earliest stages," Galvin said.
The full study includes 200 individuals and is expected to be completed later this year. With this test, Frost is confident that they will be able to detect the disease 15-20 years before an official diagnosis.
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