Hebrew University doctoral student Suaad Abd-Elhadi has won a Kaye Innovation Award for her work on a new diagnostic approach that could pave the way for early diagnosis of one of the most common and debilitating neurodegenerative disorders.
Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in humans, after Alzheimer's disease. It is typically characterized by changes in motor control such as tremors and shaking, but can also include non-motor symptoms, from the cognitive to the behavioral. An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson's disease, with medication costing approximately $2,500 a year, and therapeutic surgery costing up to $100,000 dollars, per patient.
Making an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson's, particularly in early stages and mild cases, is difficult, and there are currently no standard diagnostic tests other than clinical information provided by the patient and the findings of a neurological exam. One of the best hopes for improving diagnosis is to develop a reliable test for identifying changes in the severity of the disease. This will allow drug companies to test potential drugs at higher efficacy.
Now, a novel diagnostic approach developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Medicine could pave the way toward such a test. Working under the supervision of Dr. Ronit Sharon, at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), PhD student Suaad Abd-Elhadi developed the lipid ELISA, an approach that could lead to earlier detection of Parkinson's, along with better tracking of the disease's progression and a patient's response to therapy.
How the ELISA works
ELISA stands for "enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay." An assay is a procedure used in laboratory settings to assess the presence, amount and activity of a target entity, such as a drug, cell or biochemical substance. ELISA is a common assay technique that involves targeting cellular secretions.In the case of the lipid ELISA, the cellular secretion of interest is a specific protein called the alpha-Synuclin protein. This protein serves as a convenient biomarker that is closely associated with the tissues where Parkinson's disease can be detected, along with the neurological pathways the disease travels along, causing its characteristic symptoms.
The development of a simple and highly sensitive diagnostic tool that can detect Parkinson's biomarkers could lead to a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to improve the lives of Parkinson's patients. Toward this end, Abd-Elhadi has recently demonstrated a proof of concept to the high potential of the lipid-ELISA assay in differentiating healthy and Parkinson's affected subjects. She is now in the process of analyzing a large cohort of samples, including moderate and severe Parkinson's, and control cases, as part of a clinical study.