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Testing eyes for amyloid-beta could predict Alzheimer’s in early years

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Friday, May 21, 2010, 20:28 This news item was posted in Discoveries category and has 0 Comments so far.

Alzheimer’s disease may soon be able to be detected through a simple eye test.

Researchers have recently discovered that a toxic protein called amyloid-beta that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers also accumulated in the eyes of these patients.

Amyloid-beta starts to accumulate very early in the lens of the eye, even in children, researchers said.

This toxic protein amyloid-beta is leading to loss of memory and confusion in Alzheimer’s patients.

If the eye test could detect the presence of this toxic protein amyloid-beta, Alzheimer’s disease may be identified years before the onset of any symptoms.

The eye test is currently being developed by scientists. They are developing an eye scanner to measure amyloid beta in the lens.

The new findings offer hope for developing new ways of detecting Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms become apparent and also help with developing treatments such as vaccines.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal brain disease. Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and it is fatal.

As many as 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Today it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Learn more: Warning Signs and Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.

Alzheimer’s has no current cure. But treatments for symptoms, combined with the right services and support, can make life better for the millions of Americans living with Alzheimer’s.

Two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles are prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells.

Plaques build up between nerve cells. They contain deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid. Tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau.

Tangles form inside dying cells. Though most people develop some plaques and tangles as they age, those with Alzheimer’s tend to develop far more. The plaques and tangles tend to form in a predictable pattern, beginning in areas important in learning and memory and then spreading to other regions.

Scientists are not absolutely sure what role plaques and tangles play in Alzheimer’s disease. Most experts believe they somehow block communication among nerve cells and disrupt activities that cells need to survive.

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