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Tear proteins seen as Parkinson’s biomarker

Key clinical point: Elevated oligomeric alpha-synuclein in tears shows promise as an early biomarker for Parkinson’s disease.

Major finding: Levels of the oligomeric form of alpha-synuclein were significantly greater in PD patients, compared with controls: an average of 1.45 ng/mg of tear protein, compared with 0.27 ng/mg in controls (P = .0007).

Study details: An ongoing study that has so far measured tear proteins in 55 people with PD and 27 age- and sex-matched controls.

Disclosures: Dr. Lew and his colleagues’ study was supported by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Plotkin Foundation. Dr. Lew has received personal compensation for consulting for, serving on a scientific advisory board for, speaking for, or other activities with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, US WorldMeds, AbbVie, Lundbeck, Acadia Pharmaceuticals, UCB, Revance Therapeutics, and Adamas Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Lew has received research support from Acorda Therapeutics, Biotie Therapies, NeuroDerm, and Lilly. None of the other authors had anything to disclose.

Source: Feigenbaum D et al. AAN 2018, Abstract 4209



The tears of people with established Parkinson’s disease have protein signatures distinct from those of healthy controls, researchers have learned.

Mark Lew, MD, and his colleagues at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, used a noninvasive method to collect the tears and readily available assays to detect the proteins, paving the way for future studies of these proteins as biomarkers in early Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Dr. Mark Lew, professor of neurology, the vice chair of the department of neurology, and the director of the division of movement disorders at the University of Southern California

Dr. Mark Lew

The researchers will report on their study at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Los Angeles on April 22.

This research from Dr. Lew and his colleagues joins a host of ongoing efforts to find biomarkers for PD that can be used in the early stages of the disease, before motor dysfunction occurs. Other research groups are working on biomarkers in saliva and salivary glands, skin, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid. “Right now, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is based on clinical history and then examination and then, potentially, on response to medication,” said Dr. Lew, professor of neurology, the vice chair of the department of neurology, and the director of the division of movement disorders at USC. “The difficulty is really being able to definitively be able to diagnose patients with early disease.”


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