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Healthy Brain Project volunteers will be first in Australia to trial Alzheimer’s diagnosis tool

A revolutionary new diagnostic eye test will be offered to volunteers in the Healthy Brain Project, an Australia-wide study of healthy middle-aged adults with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease that aims to identify risk factors for the disease.

The research brings Healthy Brain Project investigators, neuropsychologist Dr Yen Ying Lim, of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, and neurologist Dr Nawaf Yassi at the Florey and Royal Melbourne Hospital together with leading eye researchers from the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA).

Dr Lim said, “We are looking forward to giving our volunteers the opportunity to trial this exciting new technology from CERA. The data we obtain will give us greater insights into the previously invisible processes happening in the brains of people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden and Dr Xavier Hadoux from CERA and the University of Melbourne developed the imaging technology.  The test uses specialised colour imaging of the eye to detect amyloid build-up, a key component of the Alzheimer’s disease process.

The technology is similar to that used in NASA satellites and will accelerate research efforts to delay, prevent, or even cure, the disease.

Increasingly, scientists are taking a more targeted and less invasive approach to testing new drugs and treatments for those most at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Identifying at-risk people as early as possible is key to this aim.

A/Prof van Wijngaarden said, “We hope to develop a simple, non-invasive test that can identify people at risk of the disease and open the way to new treatments and hopefully a cure,’’ he said.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) will provide more than AUD$600,000 to support the research as part of its Diagnostics Accelerator program. It is one of the first four projects worldwide to be announced for the inaugural round of funding.

The research team also paid credit to a group of generous Australian philanthropists, including Baillieu Myer, Samantha Baillieu and Jeanne Pratt for supporting the research in its early stages. These donors had the vision to back the initial idea in its proof of concept phase.

To volunteer to be part of the Healthy Brain Project, head to healthybrainproject.org.au

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