New retinal imaging tech promises to help diagnose Alzheimer’s

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Neurovision Alzheimer's

New technology, developed by NeuroVision Imaging and Cedars-Sinai, is exploring the use of noninvasive eye imaging to detect Alzheimers disease, scanning the retina to identify protein deposits associated with the disorder.

The system is designed to look for neurotoxic beta-amyloid protein deposits, which are also found in the brain in Alzheimers patients. Normally, such deposits are found through the use of positron emission tomography, or through the analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, both of which are invasive and costly, researchers said.

“In 2010, our research group published an article providing the 1st evidence for the existence of Alzheimer’s-specific plaques in the human retina, and we demonstrated the ability to detect individual plaques in live mouse models using a modified ophthalmic device,” NeuroVision scientist and inventor Yosef Koronyo said in a prepared release.

The NeuroVision system utilizes autofluorescence imaging of the retina alongside a specialized ophthalmic camera and advanced image processing software to detect the deposits, the company said.

Researchers have initiated several clinical trials of the device in the US and Australia. Results from these studies, which covered a 16-patient clinical trial and research on donated eyes and brains of 37 decease patients, was recently published.

“This is the 1st study demonstrating the potential to image and quantify retinal findings related to beta-amyloid plaques noninvasively in living patients using a retinal scan with high resolution. This clinical trial is reinforced by an in-depth exploration of the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the retina of Alzheimer’s patients versus matched controls, and a comparison analysis between retina and brain pathologies. Findings from this study strongly suggest that retinal imaging can serve as a surrogate biomarker to investigate and monitor Alzheimer’s disease,” NeuroVision co-founder and tech inventor Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui of the Maxine Dunitz Neurological Institute at Cedars-Sinai said in a press release.

Koronyo-Hamaoui was the leading author in a study of the device published in the journal JCI Insight this month.

Results from the studies indicated a 4.7-fold increase in retinal plaque burden for Alzheimers patients when compared to controlled. Study investigators also noted changes in geometric distribution and layer location of amyloid pathology in the retina, according to a press release.

“As a developmental outgrowth of the central nervous system that shares many of the brain’s characteristics, the retina may offer a unique opportunity for us to easily and conveniently detect and monitor Alzheimer’s disease. We know that Alzheimer’s begins as many as 10 or 20 years before cognitive decline becomes evident, and we believe that potential treatments may be more effective if they can be started early in the process. Therefore, screening and early detection may be crucial to our efforts to turn the tide against the growing threat of this devastating disease,” NeuroVision chair and Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute director Dr. Keith Black said in prepared remarks.

Investigators are hopeful that the technology’s ability to detect signals related to retinal beta-amyloids could lead to a practical approach for large-scale identification of individuals at-risk for Alzheimers.

“It’s exciting to see these studies demonstrating the power of the technology applied to the Alzheimer’s field. Our goal is to develop a product that is easy to use, affordable and widely accessible. We look forward to the potential of retinal imaging playing a vital role in solving the problem of Alzheimer’s, both in identifying and monitoring those who may be affected by the disease. Our next step is to continue with clinical trials, building upon the existing pharmaceutical company collaborations, to ensure our technology is ready for the medical community to help manage this disease,” NeuroVision CEO Steven Verdooner said in a prepared statement.

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