Saltar apartados
  • UA
  • University News
  • The University of Alicante leads the fir.. study on Parkinson's with human retinas

The University of Alicante leads the first global study on Parkinson's with human retinas

 

Retina_parkinsonAlicante, 30 June 2015

The University of Alicante leads the first global study on Parkinson's disease using human retinas with support from The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Researchers from Alicante and the Banner Sun Health Research Institute  in the United States have launched a comprehensive study whose ultimate goal is to improve the diagnosis and understanding of Parkinson's disease 

The main researcher of this project is Dr. Nicolas Cuenca, coordinator of the research group Visual System Neurobiology and Neurodegenerative Retinal Diseases Therapy at the University of Alicante in collaboration with Dr. Thomas Beach at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Arizona (U.S.A.).

The two scientists began their collaboration in 2014 and published a paper showing, for the first time, that the characteristic molecular changes of the protein alpha-synuclein are found in the retina of Parkinson’s patients. 

This first work together led to the current project, which will be extended into a comprehensive anatomical and biochemical study. 

The research will be conducted with retinas from deceased Parkinson's patients, donated by the Banner Sun Health Research Institute, a centre in Arizona (USA) dedicated to the study of this disease and Alzheimer's, also supported by The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

As Nicolás Cuenca explains, the retina is a promising place to study brain function, as it is an extension of this complex organ and part of the central nervous system. He adds that about 10 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with Parkinson's, which is characterised by progressive degeneration of cells in the brain that release dopamine, a key neurotransmitter for motor function. As these cells die, Parkinson's motor symptoms appear, the most common being slowness of movement and tremors. 

Cuenca, who has been studying the retina since 1984, explains that dopaminergic cells are also found in the retina and that people with Parkinson's often experience visual disorders. 

Cuenca, who has been studying the retina since 1984, explains that dopaminergic cells are also found in the retina and that people with Parkinson's often experience visual disorders. 

Presently there is no biomarker (biological evidence) that allows early detection of this neurodegenerative disease, Cuenca explained.

However, earlier work performed by Dr. Cuenca’s team established a relationship between the alteration of retinal cells and Parkinson's, analysing studies such as those conducted with pre-clinical models of Parkinson's disease.

Cuenca's research group studied dopaminergic cells in the retina in the United States for two years and has written several publications on this specific topic. .

This extensive research prompted Banner Sun Health Research Institute to contact Cuenca and propose that he submit a project proposal on Parkinson’s in human retinas to The Michael J. Fox Foundation. The grant is for $120,000 over a period of one year.

Cuenca revealed that they will determine if, in fact, people with Parkinson's have alterations in the retina; if those alterations can be identified; and whether or not they could be used as a biomarker or as a complementary diagnostic test to detect this disease and establish its evolution.

He also stressed that they have to see if Parkinson's pathology manifests in the retina before the brain and whether degeneration of dopaminergic cells in the retina is similar to that of brain cells in Parkinson’s

Also, alpha-synuclein protein and melanopsin-expressing retinal ganglion cells will be investigated. The latter help the brain regulate circadian cycles (wakefulness and sleep), which are thought to be regulated by dopaminergic cells. 

According to Cuenca, the study of the retina may help in the future to detect Parkinson’s pathology and its evolution, and to assess whether treatments for this disease are effective. 

University News


Universidad de Alicante
Carretera de San Vicente del Raspeig s/n
03690 San Vicente del Raspeig
Alicante (Spain)

Tel: (+34) 96 590 3400

Fax: (+34) 96 590 3464

For further information: informacio@ua.es, and for enquiries on this web server: webmaster@ua.es

Carretera San Vicente del Raspeig s/n - 03690 San Vicente del Raspeig - Alicante - Tel. 96 590 3400 - Fax 96 590 3464