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Link identified between Alzheimer's disease and glaucoma

agues have shown that drugs which work to prevent the build up of the beta-amyloid protein in Alzheimer brains can be used to treat glaucoma in animal models. One such drug, Bapineuzumab, is already being used in clinical trials to treat Alzheimer's patients by pharmaceutical companies Elan in Dublin and Wyeth in the US. However, the UK researchers have shown that when combined with two other novel Alzheimer's treatments, the effects on glaucoma are even stronger.

"We are trying a new approach which has never been tried before, not even to treat Alzheimer's disease," says Dr Cordeiro. "Our success in treating glaucoma in the lab by combining different Alzheimer's treatments represents a brand new treatment strategy."

Research carried out previously by Dr Cordeiro and colleagues and also funded by the Wellcome Trust suggested that the retina can provide a window into the brain, allowing doctors to diagnose Alzheimer's disease by looking for evidence of nerve cell death. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Nearly 700,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia and this is expected to exceed one million people by 2025(2).

"Many even within medicine fail to realise that the retina, commonly examined by high street opticians when they look at the back of the eye, is actually an extension of brain tissue, travelling down the optic nerve into the back of the eye," she says. " High street opticians have been routinely looking at the brain in a more direct way than has been possible by high tech brain scanners such as MRI and CAT."

Now, Dr Cordeiro believes that this knowledge may mean that the eye could also be used to test potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

"Since we have shown that drugs for Alzheimer's disease can tackle glaucoma, then potentially we could use damaged retina to screen Alzheimer's drugs that target beta-amyloid build up."


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Contact: Mike Findlay
m.findlay@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-8612
Wellcome Trust
6-Aug-2007


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