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Queen’s and UU launch new eye-focused research to investigate Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s link

Queen’s and Ulster University have launched a new joint study which will use images of the human eye to investigate the links between Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Pictured at the launch of the REVEAL study are (from l-r): Dr Elaine Murray Senior Lecturer, School of Biomedical Sciences, Ulster University; Jamie Mitchell PhD student at Queen's; Dr Imre Lengyel (Co-PI of the REVEAL Study) Reader, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's; Professor Kathryn Saunders, Professor of Optometry and Vision Science, Ulster University; Professor Tunde Peto Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at Queen's; Dr Sarah Atkinson, Senior Lecturer, School of Biomedical Sciences, Ulster University; Professor Julie-Anne Little (Co-PI of the REVEAL Study) Associate Research Director, School of Biomedical Sciences, Ulster University and Dr Aoife Hunter, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ulster University.

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, 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.”



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