Eye scans may predict Parkinson disease diagnosis

Scans to find abnormalities in the retina could identify people at future risk of Parkinson disease, British researchers have reported.

Previous studies suggest that neurodegeneration may be observed in the retinas of those who went on to develop Parkinson disease, so Dr Siegfried Wagner of University College London, UK, and colleagues investigated further.

They write in Monday’s Neurology that: “It remains unclear whether this can be reliably detected with in vivo imaging.”

The team used information from two studies, one of 700 patients with Parkinson disease and 105,770 without, and the other study of 50,405 participants in the UK Biobank.

In the first study, AlzEye, participants attending ophthalmic hospitals were given retinal imaging to view their ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer (GCIPL) and inner nuclear layer (INL) thicknesses.

Those with Parkinson disease had thinner GCIPL and INL than those without Parkinson disease.

In the UK Biobank analysis, those who went on to be diagnosed with Parkinson disease about seven years later also showed thinner GCIPL and thinner INL.

The authors write: “We investigated inner retinal anatomy, measured using optical coherence tomography, in prevalent Parkinson disease and subsequently assessed the association of these markers with the development of Parkinson disease using a prospective research cohort.

“Individuals with Parkinson disease have reduced thickness of the INL and GCIPL of the retina. Involvement of these layers several years before clinical presentation highlight a potential role for retinal imaging for at-risk stratification of Parkinson disease.”

Dr Wagner commented: 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.”

Wagner, S. K. et al. Retinal optical coherence tomography features associated with incident and prevalent Parkinson disease. Neurology 21 August 2023; doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207727


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