Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease by Looking at the Retina (Israeli-American Study)

Changes in this part of the eye reflect disease processes in the brain

Israeli and American researchers have developed a method to detect Alzheimer’s disease by looking for beta-amyloid plaques and abnormal proteins in the retina of the eye.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes brain shrinkage and brain cell death, it is the most common cause of dementia.

The research, which has just been published in the latest issue of the journal Harefuah was conducted by Drs. Keren Wood of Samson Assuta Hospital in Ashdod and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Idit Maharshak of Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and Sackler Medical School at Tel Aviv University, and Yosef Koronyo and Maya Koranyo -Hamaoui from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

Retinal photoreceptors absorb light and transfer data to the retinal ganglion cell layer.

Because the retina is connected to the brain, it appears that changes in this part of the eye reflect disease processes in the brain, the authors wrote, including the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid plaques have been found in the retinas of people who died of Alzheimer’s disease during autopsies.

For the study, ten patients with Alzheimer’s disease and six healthy controls were asked to swallow turmeric, a deep yellow spice that attaches to beta-amyloid plaques. A few days later, their retinas were examined. The yellow spice has been found to bind to the retinal cells of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and not those of healthy patients.

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