"It may not be specific to Alzheimer's," Carrillo notes, "but a big part of this research initiative is trying to find what is different between this and other neurological disorders."
Dr. Keith Black, a neurosurgeon who is leading the Cedars-Sinai trial and who helped found a company to develop the retinal imaging test, says the problem with treatments being tested currently is that they're being given to patients at the end stage of the disease.
"If we can identify patients at 50 who are accumulating these plaques, and stop these plaques from accumulating, we have a much better chance of having an effective treatment," Black said.
I want to be careful to not overstate the significance of early detection, however.
While we doctors always love to catch things early, it is with the hope that it leads to earlier treatment. Unfortunately, with Alzheimer's, there isn't yet a treatment proven to cure or even slow down the disease.
While it is certainly possible that a technology like this could present an opportunity to intervene earlier and to create strategies to measure the effectiveness of those interventions, the ultimate advice to patients may sound very familiar: Eat right and get plenty of physical exercise, which is something we should all be doing anyway.
I do think this raises something else to consider: The psychological perspective. I am not entirely sure I would want to know the fate of my brain 10 to 15 years ahead of time, unless there was something I could certainly do about it.