The Need to Find Valuable Parkinson Disease Biomarkers: Mark Lew, MD


The director of the Division of Movement Disorders at the USC Keck School of Medicine discussed the early reactions behind reflex tears as a potential biomarker for Parkinson disease. [WATCH TIME: 2 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 2 minutes

"Tears are a noninvasive process to collect. It’s a relatively inexpensive set of tests to run compared with other types of biofluids and biotissues. I think we have a tremendous amount of potential."

Despite the progress made within the space, there remains an urgent need for reliable diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for patients with Parkinson disease (PD). Traditionally, the diagnosis of PD relies on clinical symptoms, which hampers the detection of the earliest phases of the disease—the time when treatment with forthcoming disease-modifying therapies could have the greatest therapeutic effect. Thus far, evidence has suggested that the value of cerebrospinal fluid and blood biomarkers reflect the pathophysiology of PD; however, most clinicians have agreed that it will take a combination of biomarkers to produce the most effective model.

A new method using reflex tears has emerged as a potential diagnostic biomarker for the disease. In a study presented at the 2022 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting, April 2-7, in Seattle, Washington, oligomeric α-synuclein levels were found to be significantly elevated across different disease durations of PD, including early, intermediate, and late stage. Led by Mark Lew, MD, this expanded on previous findings which first identified the increased levels and was also the first presentation of tear fluid evaluation in patients with PD stratified by disease duration.

Lew, the director of the Division of Movement Disorders at the USC Keck School of Medicine, sat down with NeurologyLive® at AAN 2022 to discuss how the community has perceived these findings, albeit relatively early in the research process. He detailed the advantages of this approach, and why there are distinct differences with biomarkers from other neurodegenerative disorders.

1. Lew M, Janga S, Ju Y, et al. Biomarkers for Parkinson disease with reflex tears stratified by disease duration. Presented at: 2022 AAN Annual Meeting; April 2-7, Seattle, Washington. Abstract 3750
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