REGULAR eye tests could in future be used to diagnose early-stage Alzheimer's, new research suggests.
Early trials of two different techniques show that a key Alzheimer's biomarker can be identified in the retina and lens of the eye.
Both methods were able to distinguish between probable Alzheimer's patients and healthy volunteers with a high level of accuracy.
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Although the research is still at an early stage, further work could see such tests used as a first step in identifying individuals with Alzheimer's. After an initial eye test, more expensive and costly procedures such as PET (positron emission tomography) scans or spinal fluid analysis would then be used to confirm the disease.
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is essential to developing effective treatments that do more than alleviate the condition's symptoms.
Shaun Frost, from the Australian science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, who led one of the studies, said: "We envision this technology potentially as an initial screen that could complement what is currently used: brain PET imaging, MRI imaging and clinical tests. If further research shows that our initial findings are correct, it could potentially be delivered as part of an individual's regular eye check-up."