NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Two possible breakthroughs have been reported in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, one of them involves our sense of smell and the other involves our eyes.
Early signs of Alzheimer’s could be indicated by proteins called Beta Amyloids which are visible in the retina of a patient diagnosed with the disease.
The proteins are typically found in the brain and have often been linked to the disease.
“What makes it unique is that the retina is actually an extension of the brain, and so we think that a lot of the pathology that is occurring in the brain may also be occurring in the retina,” Neurologist, Dr. James Galvin explained.
It now appears that a simple eye exam could help spot the presence of Beta Amyloids years before memory loss.
Australian researcher Shaun Frost tested 40 people using a liquid form of curcumin, the natural substance that makes curry yellow. Curcumin sticks to Beta Amyloids and allowed doctors to spot the proteins using a simple eye test.
Frost found that the test positively identified 100 percent of participants who had Alzheimer’s.
While the disease is incurable, doctors say the test could prove to be critical.
“You’d like to be able to pick up on the disease as soon as possible so you can start someone on an available medicine. But more importantly in order to develop new therapies we need to be able to identify people at the earliest possible stages,” Dr. Galvin said.
Research out of Harvard has identified another possible red flag for the disease; the loss of the sense of smell.
Scientists said that the ability to smell is associated with the same part of the brain where Alzheimer’s and dementia first develop.
When it comes to the eye test developers say that it can predict Alzheimer’s 15 to 20 years before a clinical diagnosis.
A larger study involving 200 people is expected to be completed later this year.
People are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s based on symptoms. There is no way to be sure if someone has the disease without examining brain tissue.
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