Cedars-Sinai investigators have produced the most extensive analysis to date of changes in the retina—a layer of tissue at the back of the eye where visual information originates—and how those retinal changes correspond to brain and cognitive changes in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Their analysis, published in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Neuropathologica, is an important step toward understanding the complex effects of Alzheimer’s disease on the retina, especially at the earliest stages of cognitive impairment. Experts believe this understanding is key for the development of more effective treatments that could prevent progression of the disease.
Investigators looked at retinal and brain tissue samples collected over 14 years from 86 human donors—the largest group of retinal samples from human patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment thus far studied. They compared samples from donors with normal cognitive function to those with mild cognitive impairment at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and those with later-stage Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
Retinal changes correlated with the pathological stage of Alzheimer’s disease (called Braak stage) and patients’ cognitive status. And they were found even in patients who appeared cognitively normal or very mildly impaired, marking them as a possible early predictor of later cognitive decline.