M. Francesca Cordeiro, MD, PhD, professor, UCL and Imperial College London, Western Eye Hospital London, introduces a promising new technology that could enable much earlier detection of retinal neurodegeneration. In a Phase I trial, the detection of apoptosing retinal cells (DARC) scan – which employs a new retinal biomarker – demonstrated it could visualize nerve cell apoptosis in vivo, enabling researchers to see increased levels of cell death in patients with glaucoma. The DARC system, which will undergo further trials, could allow for earlier detection of retinal disease in patients, as at least 30% to 50% of ganglion cells may be lost before vision is damaged. This could be used to hone clinical trial endpoints of ophthalmology drugs, but it also may be used to detect neurological disease such as Parkinson’s and dementia.
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