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Eyes Might Help in Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease

Update Date: Nov 14, 2013 09:36 AM EST

Loss of a particular layer of retinal cells might be linked to Alzheimer’s presence in the body, a new study claims.

The first of its kind investigation, is being carried out by an international team of researchers who are suggesting a link between vision loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers examined retinas from the eyes of mice who were genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The research is being carried out by the researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) and the University of Hong Kong.

“The retina is an extension of the brain so it makes sense to see if the same pathologic processes found in an Alzheimer’s brain are also found in the eye,” said R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, director of the Memory Disorders Program at GUMC in a press release. Turner is the only U.S. author on the study.

“We know there’s an association between glaucoma and Alzheimer’s in that both are characterized by loss of neurons, but the mechanisms are not clear.”

According to Turner, glaucoma is also being seen as a neurodegenerative disorder which is identical to AD.

Researchers studied the thickness of the retina which included the inner nuclear layer and the retinal ganglion cell layer. Remarkable loss of thickness was measured in both. The inner nuclear layer witnessed a 37 percent loss of neurons and the retinal ganglion cell layer had 49 percent loss. The loss was in the comparison with the healthy, age-matched control mice.

“This study suggests another path forward in understanding the disease process and could lead to new ways to diagnose or predict Alzheimer’s that could be as simple as looking into the eyes,” Turner added. “Parallel disease mechanisms suggest that new treatments developed for Alzheimer’s may also be useful for glaucoma.”

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