Alzheimer's disease pathophysiology in the Retina

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2024 Jul:101:101273. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2024.101273. Epub 2024 May 15.


The retina is an emerging CNS target for potential noninvasive diagnosis and tracking of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Studies have identified the pathological hallmarks of AD, including amyloid β-protein (Aβ) deposits and abnormal tau protein isoforms, in the retinas of AD patients and animal models. Moreover, structural and functional vascular abnormalities such as reduced blood flow, vascular Aβ deposition, and blood-retinal barrier damage, along with inflammation and neurodegeneration, have been described in retinas of patients with mild cognitive impairment and AD dementia. Histological, biochemical, and clinical studies have demonstrated that the nature and severity of AD pathologies in the retina and brain correspond. Proteomics analysis revealed a similar pattern of dysregulated proteins and biological pathways in the retina and brain of AD patients, with enhanced inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes, impaired oxidative-phosphorylation, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Notably, investigational imaging technologies can now detect AD-specific amyloid deposits, as well as vasculopathy and neurodegeneration in the retina of living AD patients, suggesting alterations at different disease stages and links to brain pathology. Current and exploratory ophthalmic imaging modalities, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), OCT-angiography, confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, and hyperspectral imaging, may offer promise in the clinical assessment of AD. However, further research is needed to deepen our understanding of AD's impact on the retina and its progression. To advance this field, future studies require replication in larger and diverse cohorts with confirmed AD biomarkers and standardized retinal imaging techniques. This will validate potential retinal biomarkers for AD, aiding in early screening and monitoring.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Inflammation; Neurodegenerative diseases; Retinal imaging; Retinal vascular pathology; Visual impairments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / physiopathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Retina* / physiopathology
  • Retinal Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Retinal Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Retinal Vessels / diagnostic imaging
  • Retinal Vessels / physiopathology
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides