A new technique could be a potential “game-changer” in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease, which is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s. It affects more than 8.5 million people worldwide according to World Health Organisation and currently, there is no cure or way to test the disease before the symptoms appear.
Parkinson's disease causes uncontrollable movements such as shaking, as well as sleep and mental health disorders. The symptoms worsen over time, affecting patients walking and talking abilities.
One of the factors that have been linked to Parkinson’s is the accumulated clusters of Alpha-synuclein protein which are "misfolded" or incorrectly folded in the patients’ brains. New research published in the journal Lancet Neurology used a technique to amplify and analyse these clusters of the tiny protein, pointing towards a way to test for the disease, according to AFP.
This study included more than 1,100 participants and represents the largest analysis so far of the Alpha-synuclein SAA for the biochemical diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, according to the research paper. Among them, about half of the participants had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and were at risk. A healthy control group was also included in the study. For the study, samples of cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the brain and spinal cord, were taken from the participants. This technique is called Syn-SAA.
The analysis came back positive for 88% of all participants who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. In a statement, the study's lead author, Andrew Siderowf of the University of Pennsylvania in the US, said that the technique "could have profound implications for the way we treat the condition, potentially making it possible to diagnose people earlier", as reported by AFP.
The Sun-SAA was less successful for participants carrying a gene variant known as LRRK2 which is linked to certain forms of the disease, identifying only 68% of diagnosed patients.
In the paper, the researchers concluded that the findings suggest a crucial role for the Alpha-synuclein SAA in therapeutic development, to identify pathologically defined subgroups of people with Parkinson's disease and establish biomarker-defined at-risk cohorts.
The next step would be to examine if this technique works when using a blood sample, which is easier to extract than cerebrospinal fluid. Daniela Berg and Christine Klein, neurologists at Germany's University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein not involved in the research, said the finding "lays the foundation for a biological diagnosis of Parkinson's disease,” according to AFP.