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N Engl J Med. 1986 Aug 21;315(8):485-7.

Optic-nerve degeneration in Alzheimer's disease.


Alzheimer's disease is a dementing disorder of unknown cause in which there is degeneration of neuronal subpopulations in the central nervous system. In postmortem studies, we found widespread axonal degeneration in the optic nerves of 8 of 10 patients with Alzheimer's disease. The retinas of four of the patients were also examined histologically, and three had a reduction in the number of ganglion cells and in the thickness of the nerve-fiber layer. There was no retinal neurofibrillary degeneration or amyloid angiopathy, which are typically seen in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease. The changes we observed in the patients with Alzheimer's disease were clearly distinguishable from the findings in 10 age-matched controls and represent a sensory-system degeneration that occurs in Alzheimer's disease. Study of the retina in patients with this disease may be helpful diagnostically, and isolation of the affected ganglion cells may facilitate molecular analysis of the disorder.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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