New Test for Alzheimer: The Eyes Have It
Alzheimer’s Disease, What Is It?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a vicious disease that attacks the brain. AD causes gradual memory loss, language loss, and emotional decline. This progressive loss of intellectual abilities is termed dementia. As the disease advances, the person needs constant help in bathing, eating, and going to the bathroom. Consequently, this round-the-clock care by family and friends takes a heavy toll. The disease is irreversible and there is currently no cure.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan repeatedly said “I don’t remember,” “I don’t recall” to many reporters questions. However, it turns out that they may have been the truth. In 1994 Ronald Reagan announced that he had Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
About four million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, as the population ages, estimates show that by 2050, 14 million people in the US will have this disease.
In addition, Alzheimer’s disease ranks fourth in the cause of death among adults. About 100,000 people die per year. Five to 10 percent of the population over age 65, and fifty percent of senior citizens age 85 and older have AD.
Most noteworthy, a new eye scan test now successfully detects AD with great accuracy and significantly lower costs.
This eye test is just as successful as traditional diagnostic brain scans at spotting plaque build up in the brain.
Researchers tested 16 people with AD to drink a solution with curcumin, which is the main chemical in the spice turmeric. This noninvasive technique uses the natural fluorescence of curcumin to cross the blood-brain and blood-retina barrier to light up amyloid deposits at the back of the eye. These deposits are physiologically similar to those found in the brains of AD sufferers.
The type of amyloid plaque in the eye and brain are similar, as the retina is formed from the same tissue as the brain while the baby is in utero. The retina is easily and non-invasively accessible for direct imaging at high resolution.
In comparison to standard invasive methods, these results can offer a low-cost and accurate diagnostic test to detect those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.