HONG KONG, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese University of Hong Kong Thursday launched a study to explore whether retinal imaging or blood biomarkers in the Chinese population can be used to screen for early Alzheimer's Disease (AD).
Over half of dementia cases are linked with AD, which, the university's researchers said, is associated with an excessive accumulation of abnormal protein - amyloid plaques. When this protein and neurofibrillary tangles in human brains, it will lead to the death of brain cells and result in progressive cognitive decline.
Vincent Chung Tong Mok, head of Division of Neurology of the university's Department of Medicine and Therapeutics said recent studies suggested that anti-amyloid treatment may prevent further cognitive decline only if it is given when the disease is still at an early stage.
"The earlier we can detect, the earlier we can intervene when the disease is still mild," Mok said, hoping that the progression can slow down or even stop.
Currently, diagnosing AD at an early stage requires the use of amyloid-PET scan or testing of cerebrospinal fluid collected via lumber puncture.
However, such investigations are invasive and not easily accessible. It is hoped that the newly launched study can help to explore whether retinal imaging or blood biomarkers in the Chinese population can be used to screen for early AD.
Carol Yim Lui Cheung, assistant professor of the university's Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences said that the retina exists as an extension of central nervous system, offering a "window" to study cerebral microvascular and neurodegenerative damage.
"We have made significant progress in developing and applying retinal imaging as a non-invasive biomarker test to study microvascular and neuronal pathology in the eye and in the brain," she said.
A total of 100 subjects aged between 50 and 80 will be recruited to the study, including patients with mild cognitive impairment, AD dementia and subjects with normal cognition. They will undergo a series of clinical assessments, including cognitive test, blood test, brain MRI and amyloid-PET scan.