Noninvasive eye scan detects Alzheimer's through plaque in retina

A noninvasive eye scan, developed by neuroscience investigators at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, detects Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms arise by analyzing the amyloid-beta deposits in the retina. The study, published in JCI Insight, outlined how the scan improves current detection methods with high accuracy.

The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is set to triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Current methods of detection involve expensive PET scans of the brain, which bars many patients from receiving the preventative care they need.

"The findings suggest that the retina may serve as a reliable source for Alzheimer's disease diagnosis," said the study's senior lead author, Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, PhD, a principal investigator and associate professor in the departments of neurosurgery and biomedical sciences at Cedars-Sinai. "One of the major advantages of analyzing the retina is the repeatability, which allows us to monitor patients and potentially the progression of their disease."

Detection of Alzheimer’s with a noninvasive eye scan evaluates plaque build-up in the retina, which reflects the plaque in the brain. The noninvasive exam allows for a broader range of patients to access preventative care years before symptoms arise, improving patient outcomes.

"Our hope is that eventually the investigational eye scan will be used as a screening device to detect the disease early enough to intervene and change the course of the disorder with medications and lifestyle changes," said Keith L. Black, MD, chair of Cedars-Sinai's Department of Neurosurgery and director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute and co-lead of the study.