Retinal Pathology in Parkinsonís Disease: Implications for Vision and Biomarkers
Research Grant, 2014
Study Rationale: † † † † † † † † ††
Vision problems are not what most of us think of when we think of Parkinsonís disease (PD), but there are some physical changes in the retina of people with PD, including an accumulation of the protein alpha-synuclein like that found in the PD brain. It has been suggested that this and/or other eye abnormalities might form the basis of clinical tests that could be used to help diagnose PD or assess whether some PD therapies are working.†
The primary hypothesis is that changes in the retina, including accumulation of alpha-synuclein and/or loss of dopaminergic neurons, will accurately identify people living with PD and that these changes will ultimately allow an ophthalmological diagnosis and assessment of PD severity. †
We were recently the first to report accumulation of alpha-synuclein in retinal nerve cells of people with PD. This finding needs to be tested in additional people with and without PD to be sure it is a reliable finding. We will also assess the dopaminergic nerve cells of the retina to determine if they are radically depleted, like the dopaminergic neurons in the PD brain. Furthermore, we will assess the overall degree of retinal damage by measuring retinal thickness and numbers of other types of retinal nerve cells, as well as the amount of glial ďscar tissueĒ that is present.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinsonís Disease: † † † † † ††
Although this study will use donated eyes from people with PD who have passed away, it is quite possible that the changes seen could potentially be used to improve the diagnosis of PD and to evaluate if PD treatments in development are working.
Next Steps for Development:
If this study confirms that certain eye changes are reliably and selectively present in people with PD, the next step would be to develop clinical eye tests that could detect these changes in people living with PD.
Assistant Professor at University of Alicante
Location: Alicante, Spain