Possible breakthroughs in identifying Parkinson's & tracking of disease progression

Two new areas of research have led to excitement in the world of parkinsonism. There is a study looking at testing which may be able to determine Parkinson’s in early stages, as well as those at risk of developing it over time. There is also an ongoing study looking at serial MRI imaging to evaluate change in brain structures over time. See below for details… Not there yet, but a step in the right direction!

**Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland may have pinpointed a test that can detect Parkinson's disease in the early stages of the illness. Experts say that the test needs to be validated with a larger sample group but they are optimistic that it could one day help to improve diagnosis of the disease.

Through this test, they have developed a way of detecting a molecule linked to the condition in samples of spinal fluid from patients. The test detects a protein molecule called alpha-synuclein, which forms sticky clumps called Lewy bodies inside the brain cells of people with Parkinson's and some types of dementia.

Previous efforts to develop a test for alpha-synuclein have produced inconsistent results because the protein is also found in healthy brains. It is only when the protein clumps together that it causes problems.

The approach - called real-time quaking induced conversion - can detect tiny differences in the properties of proteins in the brain that can mean the difference between disease or not. In early tests, the technique accurately identified 19 out of 20 samples from patients with Parkinson's disease, as well as three samples from people considered to be at risk of the condition. There were no false positives in the 15 healthy subjects tested.

**The University of Florida is looking at using serial MRI imaging to evaluate disease progression in 5 areas of the brain, in particular the motor cortex and putamen in patients with parkinsonism. This will not only help to stage the disease and it’s rate of progression but also help to differentiate between Idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Multiple system atrophy, the 3 most common types of parkinsonism, which to date has been based solely on history, exam and response to medication. 

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