Locating protein plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease can often require costly PET scans or invasive spinal taps.

Now researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in conjunction with Sacramento-based NeuroVision Imaging, say they have discovered a way to identify the sign of Alzheimer’s by simply scanning eyeballs.

The advance in technology, detailed in a peer-reviewed study published this month, could both save money for hospitals and make Cedars-Sinai and NeuroVision a tidy profit if the companies can secure U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

NeuroVision Chief Executive Steve Verdooner declined to discuss financial projections, but said in an email he was thrilled with the study’s results.

“It’s exciting to see these studies demonstrating the power of the technology applied to the Alzheimer’s field,” Verdooner said. “Our goal is to develop a product that is easy to use, affordable and widely accessible.”

NeuroVision holds the commercialization rights for the eyeball-scanning technology, but Cedars-Sinai will receive a royalty under terms of the license agreement, Verdooner added. Cedars-Sinai owns the patent for the retinal imaging technology, while NeuroVision holds the exclusive worldwide license.

The noninvasive technology, researchers said, potentially allows for early screening, detection and treatment of the debilitating cognitive disease.

The telltale eye scans could be done at far less cost than the current PET scans or spinal taps used to identify the disease. An amyloid PET scan can cost between $3,000 and $5,000, Verdooner said, while an eye scan is projected run in the “low hundreds.”

The peer-reviewed study published in JCI Insight this month. Study author Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, a NeuroVision co-founder and associate professor of neurosurgery and biomedical sciences at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai, said in a statement the results are a breakthrough.

“Findings from this study strongly suggest that retinal imaging can serve as a surrogate biomarker to investigate and monitor Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.

– Dana Bartholomew

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