Health Headlines: New eye camera may help detect Alzheimer’s early

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Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 8:36 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - An estimated 6.5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. Currently, there is no cure, few effective treatments, and the only way to diagnose it is with an expensive PET scan or a painful lumbar puncture which measures spinal fluid.

But now, researchers are testing a new non-invasive device that could make it faster and cheaper to determine if you have the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

John and Sylvia Whitley play Wordle every day. Today, the letters come easily but this couple knows that might not last. Ten years ago, the Whitley’s were caring for Sylvia’s mom with Dementia and started noticing changes in themselves.

“Recalling names became more and more difficult over time,” said John.

And Sylvia said, “I saw one of my closest friends. I saw her several times a week and I had no idea what her name was.”

The couple had spinal fluid tests at Emory University, and while John did not have markers for Alzheimer’s, Sylvia did. But after 58 years of marriage, each knew the other was struggling with memory. They’ve both had PET scans now and John was determined to be eligible for a clinical trial that was a new way of detecting the early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Richard Marshall with Progressive Medical Research in Port Orange explained the procedure, “I liken it to stopping a snowball before it starts getting rolling down the mountain.”

The RETI-SPEC is an investigational device. It’s a special camera that can take 100 layered images of the retina.

“Then, they have artificial intelligence that reviews those images and can see the buildup of the amyloid plaque on the retina.”

Researchers are still testing the RETI-SPEC’s accuracy with earlier studies showing it was between 80% and 90% accurate.

Sylvia says, “If there’s anything out there that we can find for us or, and then to help other people, you know, we wanna be part of it.”

Researchers say the ultimate goal, after FDA approval, is to have the RETI-SPEC cameras installed in eye doctor’s offices, making the technology more widely available.