A /教授 Wijngaarden’s research uses hyperspectral imaging (HSI) technology, which was first developed by NASA engineers to image Earth from space, to provide detailed information about the minerals in the soil and to map plant life. The team has adapted this technology to scan the retina of the eye as a way to detect signs of AD.
A /教授 Wijngaarden explains that “the retina provides a convenient window to the brain”. Taking an image of the retina is quick, inexpensive and pain-free. Research suggests that key changes that occur in the brain in AD also occur in the retina. The detection of these signs of the disease, otherwise known as 生物标记物, with a simple eye scan, could revolutionise the detection of AD. 现有的测试, such as lumbar punctures or positron emission tomography (PET) scans, 是昂贵的, 侵入性且不广泛使用.
成像技术本身并不能治愈AD, however it could be a key enabler of clinical studies of new treatments for AD. 发现疾病的早期变化, 之前的症状, 比如记忆丧失, 发生是很重要的, as this is when new treatments may be able to delay or prevent progression of the disease. A /教授 Wijngaarden hopes that once effective therapies for AD are available, the eye scan technology will allow the easy identification of the people who stand to benefit from treatment, 在AD损坏之前.
Research into retinal imaging for AD has progressed rapidly in the last 5 years. However A /教授 Wijngaarden recognises there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before the eye scan is widely available. 更多的研究正在进行中, 在澳大利亚和国际上, to confirm that the eye scan may be useful for the early detection of AD.
并行, the team is busy building a low cost retinal camera so that the test can be widely available. “Developing a medical device is a complex and challenging task”, says A /教授 van Wijngaarden. “It not only requires regulatory approval of the camera itself, but also of the methods that we use to find the 生物标记物 from the images that we capture”.
A /教授 van Wijngaarden estimates that if all goes to plan it will be a few years before both the camera 和 AD biomarker test are approved for use. After this, the speed of adoption of this test will be the next challenge. “Key to this will be the availability of effective treatments for the disease”, says van Wijngaarden.
“One of the greatest joys of developing this technology has been working with a dynamic and diverse range of collaborators including neurologists, 如今, 眼科专家, 数学家, 数据科学家和工程师”. The research team has also worked with astronomers and astrophysicists because there are similarities in the methods used to analyse astronomical images 和 eye scans. Drawing on a wide range of perspectives has enabled the team to make big strides.
A /教授 Wijngaarden highlights that none of this work would have been possible without the 慈善家的远见支持 . The Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Program has supported the work from its earliest stages, “their support gave my team the freedom to think big and test ‘blue sky’ ideas”.
研究小组从那时起就确保了其他来源的 funding 其中包括从 老年痴呆症药物发现基金 和 National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation.
This research has been driven by a huge clinical need for better tests and treatments for AD. A /教授. Wijngaarden explains that research offers hope for meaningful treatments for the disease, “it can’t come soon enough for those affected by AD and for their loved ones”.
墨尔本大学, in conjunction with the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, 2个funding充足 博士奖学金 为了推进这项研究. The scholarships are open to a wide range of researchers and A /教授. van Wijngaarden鼓励符合条件的学生申请.
“I experienced the sadness that Peter mentioned in this article, as my late partner succumbed to AD. I hope that Peter’s work helps to support the development of treatments for this terrible, 退行性条件.” Judy McCahon – MACH 照顾长者 Consumer Representative.
“This is amazing lateral use of NASA technology; I appreciate it is at an early stage with many steps before it may become mainstream. It may be a while to go, however there is light at the end of the tunnel. With research by people like Peter, diagnosis may be made much cheaper and easier.” Barry Baulch – MACH 照顾长者 Consumer Representative.