Researchers at two Australian universities are the first in the world to receive a specialised eye camera, which could make it much easier for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Current technologies can be expensive, invasive and not widely available, so the development of a simple eye scan could be revolutionary for the way we diagnose the condition.
Australian researchers based at the Macquarie University in NSW and Edith Cowan University in WA are among the first in the world to receive a specialised eye camera, worth $250,000, which has the potential to detect a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Optina Hyperspectral Camera, is able to take non-invasive retinal imaging scans which can identify the amyloid-beta protein, which in excess, forms into plaques and damages and kills the brains’ cells.
According to the Optina Diagnostics website, the eye is attached directly to the brain so “it’s not surprising that the eye provides accurate insights into neurological pathologies.”
The camera has an ability to collect and process light intensity for up to 200 continuous spectral bands at very high speeds. To put this into perspective, the human eye can only see three colour wavelengths in the colour spectrum (i.e. red, green and blue), so these cameras are very powerful.
Every image the camera takes of the eye contains a specific reflectance which is then used to characterise biomarkers associated with the disease in question, such as amyloid beta for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Professor of Neurobiology at Macquarie University in Sydney, and Foundation Professor of Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Ralph Martins, and his retinal imaging team, are using the camera to further develop an eye test for the screening of Alzheimer’s Disease within the Australian population.
“We need a reliable, and more readily accessible, sensitive biological marker to make early diagnosis possible in order for therapeutic interventions to be effective,” Professor Martins says.
“Having access to these cameras gives us the real potential to explore the identification of a protein in the brain called beta-amyloid [or amyloid-beta], known to be linked to Alzheimer’s, that can be viewed in the eye well before the onset of memory impairment.”
The research teams are currently running trials in both Sydney and Perth and are in the process of testing the eyes of about 200 men to further investigate the use of the technology.
The advances happening in dementia research are very promising and will have an effect on the way the condition is treated, managed, and indeed how dementia care at home is managed.
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