A new imaging technique that uses polarized light may be able to tell you more about your risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The technology was introduced at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2016) in Toronto and shows great promise. What’s most exciting about this technology is that it’s non invasive and affordable, meaning that one day, detecting Alzheimer’s might not be complicated or costly at all.
How is Alzheimer’s Currently Diagnosed?
At this time, detecting the early onset of Alzheimer’s requires complex and expensive equipment that is not generally accessible. Most people aren’t given a diagnosis until symptoms begin to appear, and even then, it can take a long time to know that it’s Alzheimer’s causing the effects and not something else.
However, it’s not until a person dies that they can be given a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. During the autopsy, the presence of amyloid plaques confirm the disease. Imagine the difference that it could make to know about this disease long before it wreaks havoc on a person’s life.
How Will the New Technology Change Things?
The new technology – polarimetry – aims at detecting Alzheimer’s sooner so that patients and their families can plan ahead. This would eventually lead to better prevention and treatment options, and ultimately, a higher quality of life for those affected.
What’s more is that polarimetry is something that could potentially be done during a routine eye exam. The eye specialist would use polarized light to detect beta amyloid plaques in the brain, look for a decrease in retinal thickness and report how the retinal blood vessels react to light. Though these signs are not a guarantee that a person will develop Alzheimer’s, they are risk factors.
The research done so far on canine and human cadaver retinas have shown that polarimetry makes it easy to detect amyloid plaques, count their number and measure their size, something that other imaging techniques have not been successful at.
What do you think about this technology? Do you see it in our future? And if so, would you want to know if you were at risk for Alzheimer’s?