Can tear drops hold the key to an early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease?

We’re supporting Dr Vanessa Morris, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury with a Major Project Grant of $110,000 to find out what more the eye can tell us about the debilitating neurodegenerative condition.

The project is the first study of its kind in the world.

More than 12,000 Kiwis currently live with Parkinson’s disease. The condition is known to cause a wide range of symptoms, including shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.

“What we understand about Parkinson’s disease is that changes are happening inside the brain for up to a decade before symptoms appear . That makes early intervention difficult because by the time someone is diagnosed, a lot of damage to nerve cells has already been done.

“We think that through analysing tear drops, we might be able to detect those changes early on, so we can say whether or not someone is likely to develop the disease.”

Dr Morris says early detection is key to better health outcomes.

“It opens a whole lot more opportunities for treatment options, so there’s potential here to hugely improve the lives of people living with Parkinson’s disease.”

Dr Morris says the brain is closely connected to the eye, so it’s an easily accessible ‘window’ to collect samples of fluid from.

Dr Morris is a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury, where she leads a protein biophysics and structural research group focused on studying the structures, mechanisms and interactions of aggregating proteins.

Stay in touch with CMRF

// Get all the latest news and insights to your inbox