MONTRÉAL – A simple eye exam could detect Alzheimer’s more precisely and more quickly than ever before, in just a few minutes.
Researchers at Duke University in the United States have used an optical coherence tomography (ATCO) angiography system to map the blood vessels lining the back of the eye inside the retina. It is a sophisticated technology capable of taking high resolution images of vessels that are sometimes half the size of a hair.
Scientists found that these blood vessels formed a dense network in 133 of their approximately 200 participants, apparently reflecting a healthy brain.
But in 39 subjects suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, this carpet was less dense and sometimes even sparse. This difference in density retained its relevance even when taking into account factors such as age, sex and level of education.
The study’s lead author, ophthalmologist Sharon Fekrat, said in a statement that “these changes in the density of blood vessels in the retina may reflect what happens in the small blood vessels of the brain, sometimes even before we can detect cognitive changes. ”
The review was able to differentiate between healthy subjects, subjects with cognitive decline and subjects with Alzheimer’s disease. Very specifically, a specific layer of the retina was thinner in patients with Alzheimer’s,
Cognitive decline is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
ATCO is able to detect changes in the tiny vessels of the retina before further examination of the brain, for example by magnetic resonance imaging, detects an alteration of larger vessels.
Such early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, before the symptoms become evident, may prove useful in clinical trials of new therapies.
The findings of this study are published by the medical journal Ophthalmology Retina.