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Eye scans can spot signs of Parkinson’s disease seven years before symptoms, new research shows

Eye scans could be the key to detecting signs of Parkinson’s disease seven years before the onset of symptoms, new research has revealed.

The research leveraged AI to analyse changes in people’s retina – this was done using two large datasets.

Researchers first investigated the AlzEye dataset, which is a cohort of more than 154,000 patients aged 40 and over who attended secondary care ophthalmic hospitals in London between 2008 and 2018.

The second assessed data from the UK Biobank, which included over 67,000 healthy volunteers aged between 40 and 69 who were recruited between 2006 and 2010.

The researchers found differences in the thickness of the inner retinal cell layer; ostensibly linked to the development of Parkinson’s.

                                    Video credit: Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Industry collaboration

The work highlights some of the exemplary collaboration between the NIHR’s biomedical research centres (BRCs). Although led by Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology, the research partners also included:

  • NIHR Birmingham BRC
  • NIHR Great Ormond Street Hospital BRC
  • NIHR Oxford BRC

Siegfried Wagner, the principal investigator for the study and a clinical research fellow at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “I continue to be amazed by what we can discover through eye scans. While we are not yet ready to predict whether an individual will develop Parkinson’s, we hope that this method could soon become a pre-screening tool for people at risk of disease.”

The study’s findings further support a field of work known as ‘oculomics’ which evaluates the use of eye scans in detecting neurodegenerative conditions – something that has already shown promising results in identifying signs of Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis.

The research was published in the journal Neurology.

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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