Background: Recent work on Alzheimer's disease (AD) diagnosis focuses on neuroimaging modalities; however, these methods are expensive, invasive, and not available to all patients. Ocular imaging of biomarkers, such as drusen in the peripheral retina, could provide an alternative method to diagnose AD.
Objective: This study compares macular and peripheral drusen load in control and AD eyes.
Methods: Postmortem eye tissues were obtained from donors with a neuropathological diagnosis of AD. Retina from normal donors were processed and categorized into younger (<55 years) and older (>55 years) groups. After fixation and dissection, 3-6 mm punches of RPE/choroid were taken in macular and peripheral (temporal, superior, and inferior) retinal regions. Oil red O positive drusen were counted and grouped into two size categories: small (<63 μm) and intermediate (63-125 μm).
Results: There was a significant increase in the total number of macular and peripheral hard drusen in older, compared to younger, normal eyes (p<0.05). Intermediate hard drusen were more commonly found in the temporal region of AD eyes compared to older normal eyes, even after controlling for age (p<0.05). Among the brain and eye tissues from AD donors, there was a significant relationship between cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) severity and number of temporal intermediate hard drusen (r=0.78, p<0.05).
Conclusion: Imaging temporal drusen in the eye may have benefit for diagnosing and monitoring progression of AD. Our results on CAA severity and temporal intermediate drusen in the AD eye are novel. Future studies are needed to further understand the interactions among CAA and drusen formation.