Phototherapy for Symptomatic Improvement
HIGHLAND, Utah–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Until recently, the outlook for Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients has
been fairly dim. But recent discoveries about the eye’s involvement in
Parkinson’s offer new hope to the millions of people who suffer from the
For over half a century, researchers have only been able to make small
improvements in symptoms by looking at just the motor center in the
brain. Now they are looking outside the brain for clues to the cause of
Parkinson’s and eye research may bring the breakthrough science has been
looking for. Retinal tissue is similar to brain tissue and the two are
directly connected. “It’s as if the eyes act as a thermostat or switch
for the brain,” said Dan Adams, Chief Science Officer at PhotoPharmics,
the research company specializing in treating Parkinson’s through the
eyes. “The eyes are the way the brain knows how to react to its
environment. That’s how the brain changes its chemistry to become active
and energetic during the day, or to know when to withdraw and prepare
for sleep. Dopamine is one of the chemicals the brain uses, and dopamine
levels depend a great deal on what happens in the eyes.”
Scientists found that when the motor center in animals’ brains was
damaged, corresponding damage happened in the animals’ eyes within only
a few weeks. This was the first evidence to show that the eyes and the
brain’s motor center are connected. Researchers then wondered whether
damaging the eyes could also cause the same type of damage to the brain.
If this were true, it would show for the first time that Parkinson’s
might not always start in the brain, but may start in the eyes.
In a series of experiments, researchers placed several toxins known to
cause Parkinson’s into animals’ eyes, in amounts that were too small to
diffuse into the brain. In each case, the animals developed Parkinson’s.
“This was really the smoking gun we were looking for,” said Adams. “For
the first time we discovered a pathway that can cause the disease. This
opens the door to find better tools to treat Parkinson’s.”
Using the eyes as a treatment pathway, scientists delivered minute
amounts of dopamine and other medications to the eye. The treatments
resulted in rapid symptom recovery in the animals. Subsequent studies
delivering drugs that block dopamine made symptoms worse. Because
dopamine in the eye is activated by light, researchers experimented by
administering light to the animals’ eyes and found a two-fold
improvement over medication.
These discoveries led to research in humans with specialized
phototherapy. Preliminary studies have shown dramatic symptomatic
improvements. “We are cautiously optimistic,” Adams commented.
“Treatment in a clinic can look promising, but results have to be
verified in a double blinded study.” A pivotal, double-blind study
delivering specialized phototherapy is currently underway in the U.S.
and Europe, and should be completed by September of 2016. “If we’re
successful, this would be the most significant advancement in
Parkinson’s disease since the discovery of dopamine drugs in the 1960s.”
PhotoPharmics, Inc. is developing specialized non-invasive
phototherapy medical devices for the treatment of neurological
disorders. The company is currently conducting a double-blind, placebo
controlled human clinical investigation of a proprietary Phototherapy
Lamp intended to provide symptomatic relief of Parkinson’s disease. The
company was incorporated in 2011 and is based in Highland, Utah.
Kent Savage, 801-770-6960