The accumulation of a protein known as alpha-synuclein in the retina is a good biomarker that could help detect Parkinson’s disease, as well as the degree of severity of the disease, according to research involving scientists from the United States and Spain.
The main researcher of the project is Dr. Nicolas Cuenca, a researcher from the University of Alicante, Spain, has collaborated with Dr. Thomas Beach, from the Sun Banner Health Research Institute in Sun City, Arizona, the USA, and experts from Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic.
The research has been carried out with the retinas of deceased Parkinson’s patients, donated to the Sun Banner, a center dedicated to research into this pathology and Alzheimer’s disease, as well.
In an interview, the researchers explained that they have specifically studied the alpha-synuclein protein because it is one of the main pathological marks that are usually analyzed to determine if Parkinson’s disease is present.
Researchers managed to develop the Parkinson’s disease diagnosis method by scanning patients’ retinas
As a characteristic sign of this disease, patients with Parkinson’s disease present an accumulation of the protein in the brain that forms a structure called Lewy bodies, the number of which increases as the disease progresses.
The researchers have identified Lewy bodies in the retinas of people with Parkinson’s disease for the first time in the world.
In addition, researchers have found that the greater the amount of alpha-synuclein in the retina, the more motor and clinical alterations occur, which means that the disease is in a more serious stage, in this case.
Also, the study has revealed that the alpha-synuclein protein is also visible in some patients who did not present the Parkinson’s disease usual symptoms but who already had the brain affected by this disease.
Scientists have stressed that the retina is an ideal model for studying Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis as it is a prolongation the central nervous system. “The retina is the window to the brain,” said Cuenca, the leading author of the study.