ALS Research Forum: Looking ALS in the Eye


Article Introduction (Source):

In 2012, ophthalmologist Amani Fawzi moved into the lab across the hall from ALS neurologist Teepu Siddique at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. Fawzi, a retinal disease specialist, speculated that some signs of ALS might show up in the eye. Siddique was skeptical—after all, people with ALS never told him about difficulty seeing. But he gave her an eye that had been donated by one of his patients post-mortem. There, in the retina, Fawzi found p62-positive inclusions, just as can be seen in the CNS of people with ALS (Fawzi et al., 2014Mizuno et al., 2006).

Although the motor neurons that control eye movement are rarely affected in ALS and FTD (see Sep 2017 news), scientists are increasingly seeing signs that some of the neurons in the retina of the eye may be lost. Therefore, the measurement of the thickness of the retina, determined in part by the size of those neural populations, is beginning to emerge as a potentially convenient, non-invasive though as-yet unproven, biomarker for FTD and perhaps ALS, too.

“The retina is really a forward outcropping of the brain. It’s not covered by skull, so we can easily look at it,” said neuro-ophthalmologist Ari Green, at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “That’s the major advantage.”

(Photo Credit: ALS Research Forum)



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