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Eye test to predict Alzheimer's years before its appearance?

Researchers are trying to ascertain whether early stages of Alzheimer's disease can be identified through a simple eye test.

This three-year project which is worth 1.1 million pounds will investigate whether the warning signs of the disease can be detected with the help of special computer software for analyzing the high definition images of the eye.

According to the evidence it is possible to link changes in patterns of ocular veins and arteries to other diseases including cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The software, known as Vampire has been developed by a team at the University of Dundee's school of computing with colleagues at University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

"If you can look into someone's eyes using an inexpensive machine and discover something which may suggest a risk of developing dementia, then that's a very interesting proposition" said Emanuele Trucco, the project co-ordinator and professor of computational vision at University of Dundee.

The measurements of hundreds of images will be compared with medical histories stored at the Dundee's Ninewells Hospital in order to find out whether such a relationship could be established.

"When changes occur in some parts of the body, you can see differences in the retinal vessels, eg in width, some vessels become thinner; some become larger; differences in the tortuosity, or how wriggly the vessels become; there are also differences in the angles when vessels split. These measurements can indicate a huge amount" added Mr. Trucco.