The findings of the study were published in IOS Press, this exploratory study indicates that biomarkers in the vitreous humor may serve as a proxy for neuropathological disease.
The prevalence of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease is increasing. Alzheimer’s disease affects 6.2 million North Americans over the age of 65 as of 2021, with the number expected to rise to 13.2 million by 2060.
Both AD and CTE are diagnosed based on symptoms, clinical exam results, and cognitive tests, but the diagnoses are not confirmed until a post-mortem study of the brain is performed.
Because neuropathological changes in Alzheimer’s disease begin decades before symptom onset, the therapeutic efficacy is sometimes restricted by the time a patient is diagnosed. A major focus of AD research is on biomarkers that can predict disease and be evaluated before symptoms appear.
Patients with eye disease have an increased risk for developing neurodegenerative disease, and several studies have established a link between neurodegenerative diseases and ophthalmic conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts.
Patients with these eye conditions are known to have an increased risk of developing AD, so investigating biomarkers in this at-risk population is important in order to study their role in early diagnosis.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the role of vitreous fluid biomarkers and link it to confirmed post-mortem brain tissue pathological examination of AD. In addition, this is the first study to find a link between vitreous fluid biomarkers and confirmed CTE. Our findings provide further evidence to support the potential role of vitreous biomarkers in early diagnosis and prognostication of diseases like AD and CTE,” said Manju Subramanian, MD, an ophthalmologist at Boston Medical Center and an associate professor in ophthalmology at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine.
Researchers in this study found a link between biomarkers, including total Tau and neurofilament light-chain (NfL) with pathologically confirmed AD and CTE. Alterations of these neurodegenerative proteins in the vitreous fluid confirm that the eye reflects neuropathological changes in the brain and further support investigations into the eye’s potential role in the diagnosis of these diseases.
The findings of this study build on the authors’ previous work that biomarkers in the vitreous fluid are linked to cognitive function in live patients with both normal cognition and mild cognitive impairment.
These findings are also foundational for future studies to continue investigating the role of biomarkers and other eye fluids in diagnosing, prognosticating, and managing diseases such as AD and CTE.