Research paves the way for eye test to detect Alzheimer’s before symptoms

World-first research led by Western Sydney University has found a connection between the accumulation of rogue proteins in the eye, and Alzheimer’s disease. A finding that could pave the way for an eye test to detect Alzheimer’s disease long before it damages the brain.

The study, published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, saw the team produce unique antibodies to detect rogue proteins called ‘amyloid beta oligomer’. While scientists already know these rouge proteins can be detected as much as two decades before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, this is the first time they have been detected in the eye before clinical disease and brain damage have ensued.

Research senior author, Associate Professor Mourad Tayebi from Western Sydney University’s School of Medicine, said the finding was significant and that, with adequate funding, clinical trials could be less than two years away.

“Scientists have previously known that these rogue proteins accumulate in blood, but this is the first time they’ve been found in the eye before disease manifestation. This could lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and new diagnostic approaches which could enable the first routine eye-check for Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

"Alzheimer’s disease has reached ‘epidemic’ proportions and represents a substantial health burden, affecting the quality of life of millions of patients and their families. Introducing these routine eye-checks that could catch the disease before it impacts the brain could change the lives of millions.”

This research was supported by an Ainsworth Medical Research Innovation Fund Grant awarded to Associate Professor Tayebi, and an Australian Government Research Training Program Stipend Scholarship for PhD support awarded to research first author Umma Habiba from Western Sydney University’s School of Medicine.


7 May 2021

Emma Sandham, Senior Media Officer