A new study, published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB journal), has found a simple blood test which can be successfully used to detect Parkinson’s disease in its early stages even before the appearance of symptoms.
According to the researchers from the United Kingdom, led by Dr. Penelope G. Foulds, the blood of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease contains a protein “Phosphorylated alpha-? synuclein" in large quantities. This protein is a potential biomarker for the disease and its detection in the plasma can be used for early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. The researchers then developed the means to identify this substance in the blood.
The researchers employed 32 patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and 30 normal healthy persons for their study. They found that the levels of alpha-? syn were different from person to person but remained more or less static in patients of Parkinson’s disease. They also found that the levels of phospho- alpha-? syn were higher in patients suffering from the disease compared to healthy individuals.
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by neuro- degenerative changes in the brain as well as outward symptoms, e. g. involuntary movements, etc. The changes in brain start long before the appearance of symptoms. Early detection of phospho- alpha-? syn in blood would help in identifying a patient of Parkinson’s disease long before the symptoms of the disease appear.
According to Dr. David Allsop, a co-researcher in the study, from the School of Health and Medicine, University of Lancaster, UK, an early diagnosis of Parkinson’s would help to rule out other causes of involuntary movements. It may also help in the development of newer drugs with a neuro- protective action. An early diagnosis would also help the care- givers to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the disease in advance.