With a new year upon us, we’re thinking about what new developments are on the horizon that can help us continue to improve our patients’ lives. One recent finding is particularly interesting. It still needs testing and additional research but the initial results show promise for helping us treat glaucoma and identify early warning signs for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers in the study found that looking into a patient’s eyes could provide a new way to identify and monitor Alzheimer’s Disease by identifying distinct changes in the retina that are also found in people with Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Scott Turner, from Georgetown University Medical Center, who took part in the research reported in The Independent, a newspaper in the U.K., said, “The retina is an extension of the brain so it makes sense to see if the same pathological processes found in an Alzheimer’s brain are also found in the eye.”
While the study was conducted on mice, the researchers believe that a similar loss of retinal cells could be an indicator of the disease in humans. According to the article, they found an “association between glaucoma and Alzheimer’s in that both are characterized by loss of neurons, but the mechanisms are not clear.”
It’s just a first step but this study shows promise in helping scientists and eye care professionals further understand how both diseases progress and potentially gives us better tools to predict Alzheimer’s and treat glaucoma.
The study focused on two parts of the retina. Each showed a significant loss of thickness associated with Alzheimer’s in the mice. Compared with healthy control animals, the inner nuclear layer suffered a 37% loss of neurons and the ganglion layer a 49% loss.*
According to Dr. Turner, it may be possible that new treatments developed for Alzheimer’s may also be useful for glaucoma.