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Approved research

Precision Retinal Biomarkers for Cognitive Impairment

Principal Investigator: Dr Ruogu Fang
Approved Research ID: 48388
Approval date: May 9th 2019

Lay summary

The objective of this research project is to uncover retinal biomarkers for those at-risk of cognitive function impairment from retinal imaging and advanced neuroimaging. This will permit a better understanding of the neurophysiological underpinning of the symptomatology and to inform the development of the clinical diagnosis of diseases that cause cognitive function impairment. Our central hypothesis is that neural activities in important brain systems which exhibit significant changes for those at-risk for cognitive impairment could be reflected in retinal changes evident through retinal imaging. The retinal biomarker can then promote the detection of preclinical cognitive function impairment, potentiating early intervention to slow down or even halt the disease progression. The rationale for the proposed research is that the retina and the optic nerve share many features with the brain in terms of embryological origin, anatomy, and physiological characteristics. Thus, pathological changes in the retina may shed light on the neurological causes. The duration of the project is expected to be three years. Public health impact: - Enable cheap, accessible, and fast retinal imaging biomarker for Alzheimer's Dis-ease and other neurodegenerative diseases. - Identify the connections between retinal changes and neuroimaging, genotyping with cognitive dysfunction.

New scope:

The goal of this project is to discover personalized retinal biomarkers for cognitive impairment through retinal imaging, neuroimaging, genotyping, and cognitive tests. The early stage of cognitive function impairment is critical in preventing the condition to develop further. Yet, due to the limited availability and affordability of neuroimaging, patients with cognitive function impairment usually miss the early stage of the neurodegenerative disease.


Specific Aim 1. Identify retinal markers of cognitive impairment by using retinal imaging and cognitive tests.

Specific Aim 2. Uncover the underlying connections between retina changes and neural functions (cerebral perfusion, functional connectivity, neural activation) in MCI using retinal imaging and advanced neuroimaging.

Specific Aim 3: Explore the connections between genotyping and retinal biomarkers for precision medicine

Specific Aim 4: Investigate the use of retinal and neural imaging markers in predicting risks of associated diseases

Specific Aim 5: Assess the predictive ability of Fat-free Mass Index for cognitive outcomes.