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Eye test in development to help with early diagnosis

The eyes may be more than the windows to the soul. They may allow doctors to diagnose neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's years before the onset of symptoms. An eye test in early development may transform doctors' ability to detect and treat diseases such as glaucoma and Alzheimer's. The technology behind the eye test is based upon the knowledge that nerve cell death is the key element in all degenerative brain disorders. Until now, there has been no way to measure brain cell death. The new test uses a special camera and fluorescent markers that attach to retinal cells in various stages of death. This provides a real-time measurement of brain cell death by taking advantage of the fact that the eye is basically an exposed part of the brain. When brain cells are dying then retinal cells die as well. A large number of dead retinal cells would point to a neurological disorder. While it is still to early to determine if the simple eye test will be an effective diagnostic tool in humans, researchers remain hopeful that the test will be available within the next few years. Elise Ervin Staff Writer

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