Eyes are window into dementia
A new study has found that changes in the eye could help predict dementia, even before the symptoms show.
According to the researchers from Gladstone Institutes and University of California, San Francisco, loss of cells in the retina could be used as an early marker for frontotemporal dementia (FTD), prior to the onset of cognitive symptoms.
The scientists studied a group of individuals who had a certain genetic mutation that is known to result in FTD. They discovered that before any cognitive signs of dementia were present, these individuals showed a significant thinning of the retina compared with people who did not have the gene mutation.
Although it is located in the eye, the retina is made up of neurons with direct connections to the brain. This means that studying the retina is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to examine and track changes in neurons.
Lead author Michael Ward explained that the retina may be used as a model to study the development of FTD in neurons. If the patients were followed over time, they might be able to correlate a decline in retinal thickness with disease progression. In addition, they might also be able to track the effectiveness of a treatment through a simple eye examination.
Dr. Gan said the findings prove that retinal thinning could act as a pre-symptomatic marker of dementia, and they gained an understanding into the underlying mechanisms of frontotemporal dementia that could potentially lead to novel therapeutic targets.
The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
(Posted on 26-08-2014)