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New test could help detect Parkinson’s earlier

Posted on the 5th May 2023

Parkinsons Disease

As the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease continues to rise globally, scientists say they have found a method that could pinpoint the disease before symptoms show.

It is hoped the breakthrough could help treat the disease earlier and speed up the hunt for a cure.

Parkinson’s is difficult to diagnose because, at present, there is no specific test for the condition. Additionally, the symptoms vary and several other illnesses have similar symptoms, which means the condition can often be misdiagnosed.

Now a team of scientists in the US say they have come up with a way to identify the buildup of abnormal proteins associated with the disease long before symptoms show.

Published in the Lancet Neurology journal, the findings appear to confirm that the method, known as alpha-synuclein seed amplification assay (alphaSyn-SAA), can accurately identify people who are at risk of developing the disease.

The findings could pave the way for early detection, diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s.

The study involved 1,123 participants, making it one of the largest so far to assess the usefulness of the alphaSyn-SAA technique.

The group included people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, at-risk people with gene variants linked to the condition, and prodromal people – those showing early non-motor symptoms such as sleep disturbance or loss of smell.

The technique involved taking samples of fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord from each study participant and then analysing the sample in the lab to look for alphaSyn. The test amplifies very small amounts of these proteins – the pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s – to the point that they can be detected using standard lab techniques.

The research confirmed the technique could not only accurately detect people with Parkinson’s, but may be able to identify individuals at risk and those with early, non-motor symptoms before they were diagnosed.

In the last 25 years, Parkinson’s cases have doubled, with around 10 million people having the disease. Calls to increase research into potential treatments have received high-profile backing from the actor Michael J. Fox.

Parkinson’s is caused by the build up of abnormal proteins known as alpha-synuclein throughout the brain and the nervous system. This build up is thought to take place years before physical symptoms such as tremors, slowness of movement or muscle stiffness start to emerge.

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