Changes in eyes may show development of Alzheimer’s disease

Credit: Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai conducted a detailed analysis of changes in the retina in Alzheimer’s disease patients to understand how these changes relate to brain and cognitive changes.

The study is an important step toward developing more effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease progressively destroys memory and cognitive ability, and currently, there is no single diagnostic test for the disease.

The researchers analyzed the protein profiles, molecular, cellular, and structural effects of Alzheimer’s disease in the human retina, and how they correspond to changes in the brain and cognitive function.

The retina, which is an extension of the brain, provides a unique opportunity for affordable and non-invasive monitoring of the central nervous system.

The researchers found the accumulation of toxic proteins in the retinas of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment, leading to severe degeneration of cells.

The team collected retinal and brain tissue samples from 86 human donors over 14 years.

They compared samples from donors with normal cognitive function to those with mild cognitive impairment at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and those with later-stage Alzheimer’s disease dementia.

The team measured and mapped the physical features of the retinas of these patients, analzyed the markers of inflammation and functional cell loss, and examined the proteins present in retinal and brain tissues.

They found an overabundance of a protein called amyloid beta 42, accumulation of amyloid beta protein in ganglion cells, higher numbers of astrocytes and microglia tightly surrounding amyloid beta plaques, as many as 80% fewer microglial cells clearing amyloid beta proteins from the retina and brain, and specific molecules and biological pathways responsible for inflammation and cell and tissue death.

The changes in the retina correlated with changes in parts of the brain responsible for memory, navigation, and perception of time, and they were found even in patients who appeared cognitively normal or very mildly impaired.

The team says these findings may serve as an early predictor of later cognitive decline and lead to new diagnostics and forms of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about a primary cause of Alzheimer’s, and common nutrient in meat may be key to preventing Alzheimer’s.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about new trigger of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease, and results showing how alcohol, coffee and tea intake influence cognitive decline.

The study was conducted by Yosef Koronyo et al and published in Acta Neuropathologica.

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