Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease in the Prodromal Stage from Non-Invasive Hyperspectral Retinal Images

Challenge: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects millions of people worldwide, causing an irreversible and debilitating loss of neuro-cognitive functions, with no cure currently available. At the moment, AD diagnosis can be confirmed post-mortem or through complex in vivo imaging approaches (Positron Emission Tomography or PET scanner) by observing two AD hallmarks in the brain, the deposition of β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques and tau strands in the affected tissue. The early diagnosis of AD may help to dramatically increase the efficiency of clinical trials for testing new treatments.

Solution: A team of researchers are collaborating with Optina Diagnostics to evaluate a non-invasive technology for predicting the presence of Aβ in the brain. Optina Diagnostics is developing an ophthalmic imaging tool that allows the identification a retinal signal related to the presence of Aβ in the brain, in a prodromal patient. Research indicates that Aβ plaques found in the cortex of the brain also appear in the retina, the light-sensitive layer lining the interior of the eye which is an extension of the brain. Optina’s innovative Metabolic Hyperspectral Retinal Camera can detect changes linked to this in the retina in asymptomatic individuals by using a simple, safe and non-invasive eye test that is vastly more accessible than PET scan technology currently in use.

Achievements/Impact: The team is in the process of developing an imaging platform to detect Aß-induced anomalies in the retina of patients and to validate the method against brain Aß plaques detected by PET imaging. The study is evaluating a clinical cohort of 350 volunteers aged 60+ years at different stages of cognitive decline (controls, mild cognitive impairment and dementia level AD subjects). If successful, this non-invasive eye test could help AD researchers working on the development of effective therapeutics. To fully exploit the analysis of hyperspectral images captured during this project, Optina recently initiated a collaboration with Imagia Inc, an oncology diagnosis company with expertise in artificial intelligence which will be used to refine analysis of retinal scans.

Principal Investigator:

Jean-Paul Soucy
McGill University


Pedro Rosa-Neto
McGill University

Frederic Lesage
Polytechnique Montreal

Sandra Black
Sunnybrook Research Institute

Jean-Philippe Sylvestre
Optina Diagnostics

Ongoing Project
$1,500,000 / 3 years
Supported by CQDM through:
• Merck
• Pfizer
And by co-funding partners:
• Brain Canada
• Ontario Brain Institute