Eye test may detect Alzheimer’s long before symptoms develop

Professor Peter Snyder

The chance of a person developing Alzheimer’s Disease could be detected long before it impacts, simply by looking at their eyes.

Professor Peter Snyder, a neuroscientist from Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital in the US, believes the eye test could be a reality within a few years.

Professor Snyder will speak at the Griffith University-sponsored Neuropsychiatry & Queensland Neurosciences Annual Meeting this weekend on the Gold Coast.

His research is the first time a longitudinal research has been focused on the eyes during preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s. He believes current medical trials may be failing because the intervention is too late.

Professor Snyder will present his research findings that have shown a moderate correlation between the number and sizes of ‘inclusion bodies’ in the retina of the eye, with increased amyloid protein build up in the brain. Amyloid increases have already been confirmed as an identifier for the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

The study involved taking brains scans of 80 people with an average age of 61. All of those in the study have a parent afflicted by the disease. The retinas of those with high levels of amyloid in the brain were then compared with those subjects with low levels of amyloid.

eye test for Alzheimer detection

“This is an extremely early stage of the disease, at which point there is evidence of increased amyloid plaques on the brain, but up to 10 years (estimated) prior to the onset of clinical symptoms that affect the quality of life,” says Professor Snyder.

Identifying key biomarkers

“This is the stage at which I am trying to identify relevant biomarkers; I see that the medical world may be seeing failures in drug trials because we are attempting to intervene too late in the disease process.”

Professor Snyder says the research still has some way to go, and the origin of the retinal changes will need to be verified with tissue from deceased patients.

He says that, if all goes well, a diagnostic technology is still several years away from being readily available to the general public but that when it is, it will be a very simple and quick test to perform, potentially within an optometrist appointment.

“There’s a real critical need for this type of testing if we are to alter the course of this disease and catch people in the very earliest stages of the condition before it ruins their lives,” he says.

“Professor Snyder’s work is groundbreaking and it is an honour to have him visiting Griffith,” says Professor Harry McConnell, a neuropsychiatrist from Griffith University School of Medicine.

“We have enjoyed many important collaborations with Professor Snyder and we at Griffith look forward to future work with him and with Brown University.

“It is great that he has been able to join our first ever joint Neurology-Psychiatry conference on the Gold Coast this weekend. This conference will be exploring the complex interface between the brain and mind with many prominent national and international experts presenting on neuropsychiatry.”

EVENT: Combined Neuropsychiatry QLD Neurosciences ASM

WHEN: 11-13 November, 2016

WHERE: Crowne Plaza, Surfers Paradise

MORE INFO: www.neuro16.com