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U of M scientists have made a potentially huge Alzheimer's breakthrough

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By 2050, it's estimated that 14 million of over 65 Americans will have developed Alzheimer's Disease.

But University of Minnesota researchers have announced they have made a breakthrough that could potentially pave the way for the degenerative brain disorder to be detected earlier – by taking a simple eye exam.

The U's Center for Drug Design has been conducting non-invasive tests on live mice that use a camera to study the retina to detect any early signs of the disease.

According to its study released Thursday, the scientists say they have been able to "visualize clear patterns of changes suggesting the eventual development of the disease."

"Using currently available detection methods, you have to wait until the plaque (explained here) has formed to identify Alzheimer's disease," said Robert Vince Ph.D, director of the Center of Drug Design.

"This technology is a non-invasive way to identify Alzheimer's disease before the plaque is formed."

The U will now move onto the first phase of its human trials next month, which will aim to detect changes in patients with Alzheimer's compared to healthy volunteers.

"We have had great success with animal models and believe the technology is very promising for humans as well," assistant professor Swati More, Ph. D said in a press release.

You volunteer for the human trial here.

How to reduce Alzheimer's risk

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia that causes memory loss and interferes with intellectual abilities, leading to altered thinking and behavior, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

It mostly occurs in people over the age of 65, though about 5 percent of cases are early onset Alzheimer's that is diagnosed in the 40s or 50s.

HelpGuide has a list of steps you can take when you're younger to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's, which includes regular exercise, a healthy diet and an active social life.

Experts suggest a "Mediterranean diet" heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, nut, seafood, olive oil and dairy can help prevent Alzheimer's, as well as reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

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