Researchers have identified retinal markers that indicate the presence of Parkinson’s disease in patients an average of seven years before the onset of symptoms.
This is the first time anyone has shown these findings several years before diagnosis.
The study by researchers from Moorefields Eye Hospital and University College of London’s Institute of Ophthalmology, published in Neurology,1 identified markers of Parkinson’s in eye scans with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
Its analysis of the AlzEye dataset was repeated using the wider UK Biobank database of healthy volunteers, which replicated the discoveries.
The use of these two large, powerful datasets has enabled the team to identify these subtle markers, even though Parkinson’s disease has a relatively low prevalence (0.1–0.2% of the population).
Doctors have known for a long time that the eye, and optical coherence tomography (OCT), can give direct insights into many aspects of human health.
Lead author Dr Siegfried Wagner (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital), who is also principal investigator of several other AlzEye studies, 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.
“Finding signs of a number of diseases before symptoms emerge means that, in the future, people could have the time to make lifestyle changes to prevent some conditions arising, and clinicians could delay the onset and impact of lifechanging neurodegenerative disorders,” Dr Wagner said.
1. Siegfried Karl Wagner, S.K., Romero-Bascones, D., Cortina-Borja, M., et al., Retinal optical coherence tomography features associated with incident and prevalent parkinson disease, Neurology Aug 2023, DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207727.