Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people worldwide. In the United States alone, 4.5 million people are experiencing memory loss, impaired judgment, problems with language, and other signs of brain degeneration that is one of the symptoms of this disease. A number of treatment options are available.
Director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and an adviser to the Alzheimer’s Association, Sam Gandy says, “The most intensive area of Alzheimer’s research right now is to determine how to slow the progression of it years or even decades before the plaques start to cause symptoms. There are at least 35 drugs in development to do that right now.”
But in order to get the most benefit out of these drugs, early detection of Alzheimer’s disease is the key. A tool that can recognize the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s is therefore needed. The Alzheimer’s eye test fits the bill perfectly.
The Alzheimer’s eye test has the potential to revolutionize Alzheimer’s treatment and research. What started out as a minor observation that Lee Goldstein made while working on his postdoctoral research project at a Harvard laboratory has become a potential new front in the war against the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Goldstein, M.D., now a faculty member at the Harvard Medical School and practicing physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital worked on that earlier observation to come up with the Alzheimer’s eye test. In his studies, he discovered that the eyes, particularly around the rim of the lenses, of someone affected with Alzheimer’s exhibit amyloid plaques long before the same plaques in the patient’s brain start to cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
In order to determine if there is any presence of amyloid plaques in the subject’s eyes, Goldstein made use of a specialized device that can scatter light and a laser which he can shine toward the back of the eyeball. The manner by which the light from the laser is scattered as it bounces off the Alzheimer’s eye test device is the basis for detection.
“There’s a lot of data that has to be collected to prove what a healthy person’s eye should look like, and exactly what level of amyloid means that Alzheimer’s is a real future possibility,” states Goldstein. “But we’re definitely on the right track.”
The Alzheimer’s eye test is a Quasi Elastic Light Scattering device that is used to identify the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Basically, what the device does is to shine a low frequency laser at a 90 degree angle toward the back of the eye. Then, a photon detector reads both the laser and the scattered light before feeding it through software. This software is the one that determines whether there are amyloid plaques present in the lens of the eye or not.