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My News LA: Blood Vessel Defects in Eyes May Foretell Alzheimer’s Disease

In a story published by My News LA, Cedars-Sinai investigators Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, PhD, associate professor of Neurosurgery and Biomedical Sciences, and Keith L. Black, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, discussed their study, which showed that the early stages of Alzheimer's disease affect small blood vessels in patients' eyes.

Alzheimer's disease, which may affect more than 5.5 million people in the U.S., according the Alzheimer's Association, is the leading cause of dementia. It is characterized by a severe decline in memory and mental ability serious enough to affect daily life, and there is no cure.

The findings of the study could lead to the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's using the retina, a back-of-the-eye organ that is an extension of the brain and easily accessible for live, noninvasive imaging.

Investigators revealed early molecular and cellular loss in blood vessels, together with an accumulation of amyloid-beta deposits – a buildup of a toxic protein – in retinal blood vessel walls of Alzheimer's patients, explained Koronyo-Hamaoui, who led the study.

"The buildup of this protein in the brain is a signature of Alzheimer's. We were able to map these vascular abnormalities and find that certain regions of the retina were more vulnerable," Koronyo-Hamaoui said in the article.

The abnormalities detected in the study also were found in patients with mild cognitive impairment. Taken together, these findings offer significant insights into how Alzheimer's develops, with major clinical implications, Black said.

"The discovery of abnormalities in retinal blood vessels in patients with mild cognitive impairment holds the potential for diagnosing Alzheimer's years before people show symptoms," Black said in the article. "Such early detection could provide insights into the disease and enable treatments to be created."

Click here to read the complete story from My News LA.