May 19, 2024

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Eye Scans Can Detect Parkinson’s Disease Seven Years in Advance

Eye Scans Can Detect Parkinson’s Disease Seven Years in Advance


Eye Scans Can Detect Parkinson’s Disease Seven Years in Advance

Scientists have, for the first time, identified a potential biomarker for Parkinson’s disease on the retina, and this biomarker could be detectable several years before a formal diagnosis.

Researchers from Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London (UCL) conducted the largest-ever study of retinal imaging and Parkinson’s disease using the AlzEye dataset, a retrospective cohort comprising 154,830 patients aged 40 and over and 67,311 UK Biobank volunteers aged 40-69.


Eye Scans Can Detect Parkinson's Disease Seven Years in Advance


Post-mortem scans of Parkinson’s disease patients revealed differences in the Inner Nuclear Layer (INL) and a thinner Ganglion Cell-Inner Plexiform Layer (GCIPL) compared to healthy individuals.


This marks the first recognition of INL as a risk biomarker for Parkinson’s disease and the first instance of detecting visual degeneration in Parkinson’s patients approximately seven years prior to an official diagnosis.


Lead author Dr. Siegfried Wagner (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital) said, “What we can detect through eye scans still surprises me. Finding signs of certain diseases before symptoms manifest means that people can have the opportunity to change their lifestyles to prevent some diseases, and clinical practitioners can slow down the onset and impact of neurodegenerative diseases that alter lives.”


Eye scans have previously been employed to detect signs of other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and schizophrenia. Recent research has also focused on how artificial intelligence-assisted eye scans can assess stroke and heart disease risk.


High-resolution, three-dimensional Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) provides incredible detail of the retina. It is also the only non-invasive method for viewing layers beneath the skin. With the aid of machine learning AI, these images can be quickly scanned to identify various health alerts.


This emerging field of “ophthalmic” research is gaining increasing attention as a means to early assess risk factors for degenerative diseases, thereby enabling lifestyle changes and other interventions.


Professor and Ophthalmic Consultant Alastair Denniston from the University Hospital Birmingham said, “This work demonstrates the potential of ophthalmic data, harnessing this technology to find subtle signs and changes that the human eye cannot see. We can now detect early signs of Parkinson’s disease, opening up new possibilities for treatment.”


Future research will be needed to determine the interaction between GCIPL and INL and whether one triggers the degradation of the other.


Dr. Wagner added, “While we cannot predict whether an individual will develop Parkinson’s disease, we hope this approach can soon become a pre-screening tool for high-risk populations.”

This study was published in the journal Neurology.




Eye Scans Can Detect Parkinson’s Disease Seven Years in Advance

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