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

Psychosis in Parkinson's dementia—new treatment provides hope

September 25, 2017
New research involving King's College London and the University of Exeter has highlighted the benefits of a promising new treatment which could relieve psychosis in thousands of people with dementia related to Parkinson's ...

Researchers find new path to promising Parkinson's treatment

September 19, 2017
Three researchers at The University of Alabama are part of work that is leading to a new direction for drug discovery in the quest to treat Parkinson's disease.

Tug of war between Parkinson's protein and growth factor

September 18, 2017
Alpha-synuclein, a sticky and sometimes toxic protein involved in Parkinson's disease (PD), blocks signals from an important brain growth factor, Emory researchers have discovered.

Medical history can point to earlier Parkinson's disease diagnosis

September 15, 2017
Before symptoms become pronounced, there is no reliable way to identify who is on track to develop Parkinson's disease, a debilitating movement disorder characterized by tremors, slowness of movement, stiffness, and difficulty ...

Brain rewiring in Parkinson's disease may contribute to abnormal movement

September 14, 2017
The brain's own mechanisms for dealing with the loss of dopamine neurons in Parkinson's disease may be a source of the disorder's abnormal movement, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in Neuron.

Treating with antioxidants early in Parkinson's disease process may halt degeneration and improve neuronal function

September 7, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have identified a toxic cascade that leads to neuronal degeneration in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and figured out how to interrupt it, reports a study to be published September ...

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.