A research study by Weill Cornell medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar and NewYork-Presbyterian researchers has found that a rapid, non-invasive eye exam, known as corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) can effectively measure disease severity in Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) patients.

FA is a disease affecting the nervous system and according to senior author Dr. Ronald Crystal ‘the corneal nerves are a window into the health of the nervous system’. CCM can be used to assess the level of degeneration of the corneal nerves in patients with FA. It works by imaging the corneal tissue in a way that allows the density of the nerve fibres and their branches to be measured.

The study used CCM to examine the corneal nerves of 23 FA patients and 16 healthy age-matched controls. It found that the number and length of the nerve fibres in FA patients was significantly reduced compared to healthy controls. The CCM results also correlated with disease severity, age of disease onset and diagnosis, genetic test results and aligned well with the current ‘gold-standard’ standard clinical evaluation tools

The test only takes a few minutes and in the future could be used as a tool for assessing patients and as a biomarker in clinical trials. Dr Crystal said: ‘As a rapid, non-invasive diagnostic test, CCM may serve as an effective therapeutic endpoint for measuring outcomes in future studies for Friedrich ataxia and potentially other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.’

For the full press release from Weill Cornell Medical College please click here or to view the paper abstract click here.

Posted on 08/02/2019