Science and Tech


Blood, Eye Tests Could Reveal Early Signs Of Alzheimer's

Scientists have come up with a new, innovative way to detect Alzheimer's disease before symptoms appear.
Posted at 2:48 PM, Jul 13, 2014

There is currently no single test that can diagnose Alzheimer's disease, but new research is geared toward detecting the disease before a patient begins to experience symptoms. 

A new study presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Denmark focused on the eye. Researchers used imaging systems to detect beta-amyloid, a protein that builds up in the brain with Alzheimer's. To detect the fluorescent protein the eyes are stained the day before, making it easier to see in a scan. (Via NBC, YouTube / AlzheimerUniversal)

The proteins show up in the retina, which is a part of the body's central nervous system and shares characteristics with the brain. (Via YouTube / Armando Hasudungan)

While the possibilities of this study are exciting, it is important to note that the technique was only tested on 40 people and it's currently not available to the public.

The eyes are not the only new possibility for detecting Alzheimer's using proteins. Another recent study, published in Alzheimer's & Dementia focused on proteins that could be detected via blood tests. (Via Proteome Sciences)

Researchers started with 26 proteins that have previously been associated with brain shrinkage and took blood samples from over 1,000 people. Around 40 percent had Alzheimer's, 20 percent had mild cognitive impairment and a little under 40 percent were elderly without dementia. The tests were 87 percent accurate. The next step is larger trials. (Via Alzheimer's & Dementia)

The study identified 10 proteins in the blood connected with Alzheimer's. Simon Lovestone a professor at King's College London and senior author of the study, says earlier detection could make it possible to better manage the disease. 

SIMON LOVESTONE: "You take a drug, and in effect you would have the clinical symptoms prevented even if the disease had already started in your brain."

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference is set to run through July 17.