Alzheimer’s disease leads to severe cognitive dysfunction and eventual death; by 2050 it is expected to affect more than 115 million people worldwide. From time of diagnosis until death the average survival time is just under 5 years. Even with advances in medicine, a clinical diagnosis is only confirmed post-mortem, said Manju L. Subramanian, MD, Boston Medical Center.
Most patients will be asymptomatic until later stage of disease, which can be too late for current therapies to have any meaningful effect, she said.
“There is a need for sensitive and specific tests for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s,” she said.
The eye may hold the key.
There may be a lot of overlap between what happens in the eye and what happens in the brain.
“Other studies have found protein biomarkers in the eye, but those findings were reported years ago and their findings were not correlated to cognitive status. We wanted to capture the patient population with eye disease but who did not have a known diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. Levels of amyloid beta (Aß) plaques are increased in the brain but decreased in the cerebrospinal fluid of those with Alzheimer’s. Levels of neurofibrillary tangles (Tau) are increased in both the brain and cerebrospinal fluid of those with Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Subramanian presented her study results to the American Society of Retina Specialists meeting in Vancouver. She has no financial disclosures to report.