Families of Alzheimer’s Disease patients understand the excruciating pain that comes with watching their loved ones lose their short- and long-term memory, basic and advanced cognitive abilities, and emotional stability.
Dr. Delia Cabrera DeBuc, a researcher at the University of Miami Health System’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, knows this all too well. Both of her grandmothers suffered from Alzheimer’s, and her family connection to this disease drives her research into new methods for diagnosing Alzheimer’s.
Aside from a cure, the best gift for Alzheimer’s patients and their families is an early diagnosis. The early detection of this disease gives patients and loved ones the opportunity to explore treatment options, take steps to mitigate symptoms such as confusion and memory loss, optimize time spent together, and finalize important legal, financial, and healthcare decisions.
An early diagnosis also significantly reduces long-term and medical care costs. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, if all Americans alive today who will get Alzheimer’s were diagnosed at an early stage (when experiencing mild cognitive impairment, before dementia), they would collectively save between $7 trillion and $7.9 trillion in health and long-term care costs.
Dr. DeBuc and her colleagues are conducting groundbreaking research into more conclusive and efficient, and less expensive, methods for diagnosing Alzheimer’s early—as well as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. She holds a patent for optical imaging technology designed to scan the retina for biomarkers indicating diabetes, and has held many Miami community screenings to scan people’s eyes.
Research showing a possible link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s adds greater urgency to Dr. DeBuc’s ongoing studies into Alzheimer’s early detection. In the course of her testing and research, she has found that, like diabetes, biomarkers for Alzheimer’s show up on the retina before they are detected in the brain. This helps explain why both Alzheimer’s and diabetes patients frequently experience vision impairment.
Empowering Transformative Alzheimer’s Research
A diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s in the form of a retinal imaging scan would be a less expensive and invasive way for someone to find out if they have Alzheimer’s than an MRI brain scan—and would detect Alzheimer’s even earlier than an MRI.
My husband Lazar and our family are proud to be able to assist Dr. DeBuc with her efforts to make such groundbreaking medical development a reality which can help millions of families. Our Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation provided funding to Dr. DeBuc and her team which enabled them to increase the sample size of their initial study into the detection of Alzheimer’s biomarkers in the retina. The results of this study were promising, and helped convince the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to bestow a two-year grant for more advanced research.
Dr. DeBuc has published a paper based on her findings and is in the process of preparing two additional papers for publication.
In addition to research and development of a retinal imaging test for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other diseases, Dr. DeBuc has a secondary mission. Not everyone can afford to come to an eye hospital like the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In many cases, health insurance doesn’t cover this type of specialized eye testing. Dr. DeBuc works with portable retinal imaging and scanning technologies, and her goal is to make these portable tools available in primary care clinics across the country, where nurses and any other medical staff, as opposed to ophthalmic technicians, can operate them.
We will continue to partner with Dr. DeBuc to simplify the early detection of Alzheimer’s and other diseases through retinal scans. As stated above, aside from a cure, an early diagnosis is the best gift Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones can receive. We are privileged to be in a position to help doctors and researchers like Dr. DeBuc, who are at the forefront of the fight against Alzheimer’s.