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During Dementia Action Week, Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast have launched a new study that will use images of the human eye to investigate the links between Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Funded by Alzheimer’s Society, the REVEAL study will use cutting-edge imaging technologies to photograph the eyes of people with Down syndrome and older people at risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Saliva, tear and blood samples will also be collected to determine if the presence of inflammatory and other fluid markers linked with Alzheimer's Disease are associated with changes in eye structures.

Previous research from this team has highlighted the potential for images of the inside of the eye to provide evidence of the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease before other clinical signs are visible. Furthermore, people with Down syndrome are the largest patient group whose condition is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The REVEAL study team includes researchers from both of Northern Ireland’s universities, Kings College London and University College London, as well as clinical collaborators in the Belfast and Western Health and Social Care Trusts.

Introducing the research, Dr Imre Lengyel, Principal Investigator of the study and Reader at Queen’s University Belfast, said:

“The availability of improved resolution of clinical devices, and the experience we built in the past 20 years, opens new avenues for inexpensive and well-tolerated imaging biomarker discovery. The hope is to develop new approaches to study the brain by detecting and monitoring changes through the eye.”

Professor Julie-Anne Little, Associate Research Director at Ulster University added:

“We are passionate about improving visual outcomes in people with Down syndrome, and this project will harness our eye expertise towards the important issue of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, with the potential to improve lives for early detection and treatment of this devastating condition.”