New hope for eyes damaged by Parkinson's disease

August 3, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists have discovered a new avenue for the treatment of vision loss, one of the complications of Parkinson's disease.

Gentle, non- with a soft infra-red light can potentially protect and heal the damage that occurs to the in Parkinson's disease, says Professor Jonathan Stone from The and the University of Sydney.

"Near infra-red light treatment has long been known to promote the healing of wounds in such as skin. Our recent studies are showing that it can also protect the retina of the eye from toxins which attack its ," Professor Stone said.

"We have been studying a mouse 'model' of Parkinson's disease, in which such a toxin is used to create a Parkinson-like condition. The toxin targets which use a particular signalling molecule called dopamine, and the infrared light - in the right dose and with the right timing - blocks the ."

The toxin also kills certain key retinal cells which are important in giving sharpness to the retina's coding of visual images. Infrared light also protects these and reduces the damage.

The new results suggest that infra-red radiation will be effective in Parkinson's disease, Professor Stone said. Because the radiation is effective at low intensities, with no known toxicity, there are few barriers if any to trials in humans.

"As shown in these studies on mice, protection or rescue of neurons in the brain - and as we know now, in the retina - is better than the best established treatments for Parkinson's disease," Professor Stone said. "The challenge now is to translate these findings, made in mouse models, to human patients suffering from Parkinson's disease.

"Diseases such as Parkinson's are seriously debilitating; for the individual the need is immediate. There is every reason for clinical trials to be carried out as soon as possible."

As to the potential benefits for Parkinson's patients, he says: "Principally, we anticipate there would be a preservation of acuity, the clarity with which we can see detail and contours in the visual world. The same treatment should be protective for the brain as well, preventing or slowing the otherwise relentless progress of the disease. As always, we will need rigorous trials, to know what can be achieved."

It is no surprise, Professor Stone observed, that the same treatment works for both the brain and the retina. "The retina of the eye is really part of the brain - the only part outside the skull. It has to be outside the skull, so it can function as an eye. In many ways the retina is the most accessible part of the brain, and many discoveries about the brain have begun in the retina.

"Parkinson's is a double-whammy disease," says Professor Stone. "Our dream is turn back both the damage to the brain, and the damage to the retina. Increasingly, this seems possible."

The study 'Survival of Dopaminergic Amacrine Cells after Near- Treatment in MPTP-Treated Mice' by Cassandra Peoples, Victoria E Shaw, Jonathan Stone, Glen Jeffery, Gary E Baker and John Mitrofanis was published in ISRN Neurology in May.

Explore further: Guiding light: how the brain gets wired for stereo vision

More information: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3369478/

Related Stories

Guiding light: how the brain gets wired for stereo vision

June 15, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Nerve cells that transmit light signals from the eye into the brain use a molecule best known for its role in blood vessel growth as a ‘stepping stone’ to help them reach the opposite brain hemisphere, ...

Researchers visualize the development of Parkinson's cells

January 31, 2012
In the US alone, at least 500,000 people suffer from Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that affects a person's ability to control his or her movement. New technology from the University of Bonn in Germany lets ...

Powerful class of antioxidants may be potent Parkinson's treatment

July 23, 2012
A new and powerful class of antioxidants could one day be a potent treatment for Parkinson's disease, researchers report.

Recommended for you

Singing may be good medicine for Parkinson's patients

August 11, 2017
(HealthDay)—Singing? To benefit people with Parkinson's disease? It just may help, a researcher says.

Tracing the path of Parkinson's disease proteins

August 4, 2017
As neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease progress, misfolded proteins clump together in neurons, recruiting normal proteins in the cell to also misfold and aggregate. Cells in which this ...

Diabetes drug shows potential as disease-modifying therapy for Parkinson's disease

August 3, 2017
A drug commonly used to treat diabetes may have disease-modifying potential to treat Parkinson's disease, a new UCL-led study suggests, paving the way for further research to define its efficacy and safety.

Two new studies offer insights into gastrointestinal dysfunction in Parkinson's patients

July 31, 2017
Constipation is one of the most common non-motor related complaints affecting Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. Two important studies from the same research group published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease expand the ...

New drug may treat and limit progression of Parkinson's disease

July 31, 2017
Researchers at Binghamton University have developed a new drug that may limit the progression of Parkinson's disease while providing better symptom relief to potentially hundreds of thousands of people with the disease.

A new insight into Parkinson's disease protein

July 28, 2017
Abnormal clumps of certain proteins in the brain are a prominent feature of Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases, but the role those same proteins might play in the normal brain has been unknown.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.