• University College of London
    Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Retina/Vitreous

    Researchers at the University College of London (UCL) have discovered that distinct retinal abnormalities may be a biomarker for Parkinson’s before changes occur in the brain.

    In a study published Aug. 18 in Acta Neuropathologica Communications, the authors showed that 20 days after inducing Parkinson’s in rodents using the toxin rotenone, imaging revealed increased retinal ganglion cell apoptosis and a transient swelling of the retinal layers. The authors also found characteristic histological neurodegenerative changes in the substantia nigra and striatum in the brain at day 60, suggesting that retinal changes may precede the traditional pathological manifestations of Parkinson’s.

    “This is potentially a revolutionary breakthrough in the early diagnosis and treatment of one of the world’s most debilitating diseases,” said Professor Francesca Cordeiro, UCL professor of glaucoma & retinal neurodegeneration studies, who led the research. “These tests mean we might be able to intervene much earlier and more effectively treat people with this devastating condition.”

    Additionally, Professor Cordeiro and her team treated the animals with a newly formulated liposome-encapsulated version of rosiglitazone (Avandia), an anti-diabetes drug which has neuroprotective abilities. Rodents treated with sustained-release rosiglitazone had pronounced improvement in the retina and brain, suggesting a potential new therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

    “These discoveries have the potential to limit and perhaps eliminate the suffering of thousands of patients if we are able to diagnose early and to treat with this new formulation,” said study author Dr. Eduardo Normando, consultant ophthalmologist at Western Eye Hospital and UCL.