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Non Invasive Identification of Aβ Plaques in Human Retina for the Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

Principal Investigator:
  • Jean-Paul Soucy, McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University
Team Members:
  • Frederic Lesage, École Polytechnique de Montréal
  • Sandra Black, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Jean-Philippe Sylvestre, Optina Diagnostics
  • Pedro Rosa-Neto, Douglas Mental Health University Institute
  • CQDM
  • Ontario Brain Institute

Project Overview

Currently, AD diagnosis can only be confirmed post-mortem by observing two AD hallmarks in the brain, β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques and tau strands. Diagnosing AD earlier in its course could dramatically transform the design of clinical trials to test new treatments. A team of researchers led by Dr. Jean-Paul Soucy of McGill University will be collaborating with Optina Diagnostics in a breakthrough effort to find a cure for AD. The team is currently testing innovative technology which will detect the earliest neural hallmark of this devastating illness. Precisely, Optina Diagnostics is developing an innovative tool that will transform AD research by enabling the identification of beta-amyloid (AB) plaques, a key biomarker of the disease, before symptoms even appear. The same plaques that are found in the neurons of the brain also appear in the neurons of the retina, a light-sensitive layer lining the interior of the eye which is an extension of the brain. Optina’s innovative Metabolic Hyperspectral Retinal Camera (MHRC) can detect these plaques in the retina in asymptomatic individuals by using a simple, safe and non-invasive eye test that is exceedingly more accessible than the PET scan technology currently in use. The simple eye test could revolutionize AD research and the development of effective therapeutics. It could aid in identifying who would benefit from treatment and whether a treatment is effective. To date the development of pharmaceutical therapeutics is entirely derived from research using participants whose symptoms are already significantly progressed. This technology will enable researchers to enlist pre-symptomatic participants who are at risk for developing AD, facilitating the development of drugs targeting AD in its earliest stages, and providing the best hope for developing effective treatment and, ultimately, a cure for this devastating disease.