A phase one human trial has begun to identify the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease by imaging the retina with a spectral camera.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Drug Design have detected changes in the retinas of mice that are linked to early stages of Alzheimer’s disease with the technique. Using hyperspectral imaging, the researchers were able to visualise these changes, suggesting that the disease may be detectable before brain function is impaired by the disease.
The work was published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and paves the way for a human trial with the technology.
The patterns of changes visualised by the researchers were produced by differences in light reflecting from the retina that changed progressively with age, as the building blocks of amyloid plaque accumulated. These protein deposits of amyloid plaque are a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, implying that the detected light patterns could indirectly convey the eventual progression of the disease.
‘Using currently available detection methods, you have to wait until the plaque is formed to identify Alzheimer’s disease,’ said Dr Robert Vince, director of the Center for Drug Design. ‘This technology is a non-invasive way to identify Alzheimer’s disease before plaque is formed.’
Topical endoscope fundus imaging was modified to use a machine vision camera and tunable wavelength system for acquiring monochromatic images across the visible to near-infrared spectral range.
The researchers hope that the device will be able to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. In order to discover whether this is possible, the technology has entered a phase one trial in humans, aiming to detect changes in patients with Alzheimer’s compared to healthy volunteers.
‘We are very excited about moving this study into phase one human trials,’ said Dr Swati More, assistant professor in the Center for Drug Design. ‘We have had great success with animal models and believe the technology is very promising for humans as well.’
The Center partnered with Dr James Beach from CytoViva in Auburn, Alabama, to create the device. Trials are expected to begin in July 2016.