Imagine going to your eye doctor for a routine exam and being given a retinal scan that could detect biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease two to three decades before life-altering symptoms develop.
That’s the goal of scientists at the University of Rhode Island, BayCare Health System in Florida and The Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital, as they launch a clinical trial of retinal screening processes that could be used by ophthalmologists and optometrists. The objective is to create a gold standard reference database of structural, anatomic and functional imaging of the retina to enable the identification and development of sensitive and reliable markers of early Alzheimer’s disease and/or risk progression.
The principal investigators for the study are Peter Snyder, Ph.D., URI vice president for research and economic development and professor of biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences, and Stuart Sinoff, M.D., who specializes in neuro-ophthalmology and is a medical director of Neurosciences for BayCare Health System’s West Region in Pinellas County.
“When our study is completed, optometrists and ophthalmologists could screen for the retinal biomarkers we believe are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and watch them over time,” Snyder said. “If clinicians see changes, they could refer their patients to specialists early on. We may then identify more people in the very earliest stage of the disease, and our drug therapies are likely to be more effective at that point and before decades of slow disease progression.”
Snyder believes the screenings could significantly lower the cost of testing for the neurodegenerative disease as well.
The five-year, $5 million Atlas of Retinal Imaging in Alzheimer’s Study (ARIAS) is sponsored by BayCare Health System’s Morton Plant Hospital and St. Anthony’s Hospital and funded largely by Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation and St. Anthony’s Hospital Foundation in Pinellas County, Florida.