Alzheimer's lesions found in the retina

October 21, 2009
Alzheimer's lesions found in the retina
UCI neuroscientist Zhiqun Tan lead research that found the retinas of mice may mirror the brain ravaged by Alzheimer's disease. Photo by Daniel A. Anderson

(PhysOrg.com) -- The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but new research indicates they also may mirror a brain ravaged by Alzheimer's disease.

UC Irvine neuroscientists have found that retinas in mice genetically altered to have Alzheimer's undergo changes similar to those that occur in the brain - most notably the accumulation of amyloid plaque lesions.

In addition, the scientists discovered that when Alzheimer's therapies are tested in such mice, retinal changes that result might predict how the treatments will work in humans better than changes in mouse brain tissue.

These findings are key to developing retinal imaging technology that may help diagnose and treat people with Alzheimer's, which afflicts 5.3 million people in the U.S. and is the leading cause of elderly . Brain imaging techniques are being tested, but retinal imaging could be less invasive, less expensive and easier to perform.

"It's important to discover the pathological changes before an Alzheimer's patient dies," said Zhiqun Tan, a UCI neuroscientist leading the research. "Brain tissue isn't transparent, but retinas are. I hope in the future we'll be able to diagnose the disease and track its progress by looking into the eyes."

For a study appearing in the November issue of the , Tan and colleagues analyzed the retinas of Alzheimer's mice that had been treated with immunotherapy.

Vaccinated mice performed better on learning and tests than untreated mice, and their brains had fewer plaque lesions. Similarly, retinas in the treated mice had fewer lesions than in untreated mice. However, the treated mice's retinas had worse inflammation and vascular changes associated with Alzheimer's than did their brains.

When immunotherapy was tested in humans, inflammation of occurred similar to that observed in the mice retinas. "This tells us the may be more sensitive at reflecting changes in the human brain," Tan said.

UCI researchers, including Dr. Steven Schreiber, neurology professor and interim chair, are working on retinal imaging technology for Alzheimer's patients.

"New ways to view various body parts with high resolution are being invented at a rapid pace," Schreiber said. "I expect the imaging field will continue improving as we progress in developing our retinal technique."

Source: University of California - Irvine

Explore further: Lithium chloride slows onset of skeletal muscle disorder

Related Stories

Anti-inflammatory drug blocks brain plaques

June 24, 2008

Brain destruction in Alzheimer's disease is caused by the build-up of a protein called amyloid beta in the brain, which triggers damaging inflammation and the destruction of nerve cells. Scientists had previously shown that ...

Vitamin B3 reduces Alzheimer's symptoms, lesions

November 4, 2008

An over-the-counter vitamin in high doses prevented memory loss in mice with Alzheimer's disease, and UC Irvine scientists now are conducting a clinical trial to determine its effect in humans.

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.