Research finds technique for early detection of Alzheimer's in animals


University of Minnesota researchers have detected changes linked to early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, before brain function is impaired, in the retinas of live mice. The work paves the way for a human trial with the technology, which could lead to a noninvasive means of detecting the disease.

The study, by researchers in the University of Minnesota Center for Drug Design and published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, explored the use of a camera to noninvasively study the retina and detect any signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers were able to visualize clear patterns of changes suggesting the eventual development of the disease. The patterns were produced by differences in light reflection off the retina that changed progressively with age as the building blocks of amyloid plaque accumulated. Deposits of amyloid plaque, a protein, are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Using currently available detection methods, you have to wait until the plaque is formed to identify Alzheimer’s disease,” said Robert Vince, Ph.D., director of the Center for Drug Design. “This technology is a noninvasive way to identify Alzheimer’s disease before plaque is formed.”
Researchers hope the device will be able to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. The technology will be entering a Phase I trial in humans aiming to detect changes in patients with Alzheimer’s compared to healthy volunteers.
“We are very excited about moving this study into Phase I human trials,” said Swati More, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Center for Drug Design. “We have had great success with animal models and believe the technology is very promising for humans as well.”
The Center partnered with James Beach, Ph.D., from CytoViva, Inc. in Auburn, Alabama, to create the device. Trials are expected to begin in July 2016. For more information on participating in this trial, visit the trial website.

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