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Could eye tests predict Alzheimer's?

Could eye tests predict Alzheimer's?
27th October 2014

A study is set to take place to see if Alzheimer's disease can be predicted through a routine eye test.

Scientists from the University of Dundee will begin the project examining whether or not changes in the eye point to an early form of cognitive decline.

Computer software known as Vampire, which has been tailor-made for this research, will analyse images of the eye and the data will be compared to medical information. Vampire enables lots of photographs to be taken in a short space of time, as opposed to having to do it by hand. 

This could be a real breakthrough as the earlier the condition is diagnosed, the higher the chance of treatments being effective. 

The study, which will begin in April next year, has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). A total of £8 million has been put forward in support. 

Professor of computational vision at the school of computing Emanuele Trucco said: "If you can look into someone's eyes using an inexpensive machine and discover something which may suggest a risk of developing dementia, then that's a very interesting proposition."

He added that not only was this test non-invasive, but also it could be able to distinguish between the different types of dementia. 

Professor Philip Nelson, who is chief executive at the EPSRC, said: "The UK faces a huge challenge over the coming decades, we have an ageing population and a likely rise in the numbers of people [developing] dementias."

He commented that scientists' abilties to detect the different forms of cognitive decline would be improved through projects like this one. 

Experts from the University of Edinburgh will assist with the study, which if successful, could pave the way for new treatment methods and better support. 

It is believed that around 850,000 individuals will have some form of dementia by next year, with this figure set to hit one million by 2021. 

Read more about Barchester's dementia care homes.