(NewsNation) — A new study shows eye exams could help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease earlier.

Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medicine examined the brains and eyes of deceased patients who had early Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment.

The findings uncovered cells called micoglia in the retinas of patients with mild brain impairment. The cells were even found in people who showed no cognitive decline or only very mild symptoms. The findings indicate those cells could be a key marker in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease early.

“When a protein is misfolded. It doesn’t function normally. What happens in Alzheimer’s disease is you get these plaques that stop a neural, the nervous system from functioning normally the brain from functioning normally,” Dr. Dave Montgomery explained.

The hope is that eventually, patients will be able to get retinal scans that can help detect potential cognitive decline early.

“If we can get to it early, then we can treat it early,” Montgomery said.

An earlier diagnosis can help patients get treatment quicker and make them eligible for a wider variety of clinical trials.