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12:00 AM
 | 
Apr 21, 2003
 |  BioCentury  |  Tools & Techniques

Alzheimer's: The eyes have it

The formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease probably begins well before they manifest the cognitive impairment associated with the disease. Unfortunately, aside from postmortem examination, tests of cognition are the only tools available to diagnose AD.

Last week, however, Prana Biotechnology Ltd. and academic collaborators published that beta-amyloid aggregation also happens in the lenses of the eyes in AD patients. The finding represents the first potential window for seeing non-invasively what is happening in the brains of these patients.

Writing in the Lancet, company scientists and colleagues at Harvard Medical School and the University of Melbourne showed via postmortem examination that lenses of AD patients as well as those of controls contained beta-amyloid at concentrations comparable to those in the brain. However, the protein accumulated as deposits in the cytoplasm of supranuclear/deep cortical fiber cells in the lens only in AD patients.

Also, all nine AD patients examined had supranuclear cataracts, whereas control patients did not.

The researchers...

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