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Groundbreaking new test for Parkinson’s disease paves the way for treatments and a cure

Groundbreaking new test for Parkinson’s disease paves the way for treatments and a cure


Researchers on Wednesday hailed a groundbreaking new test capable of detecting Parkinson’s disease, a major breakthrough in the quest to accurately diagnose the progressive and incurable disease and a “game changer” that paves the way for new treatments, preventatives and even curative.


New test can accurately identify Parkinson’s disease using samples of cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, study of more than 1,100 people finds published In Lancet Neurology.

This is the first time that scientists and clinicians can monitor, detect and define Parkinson’s disease using objective and biological terms, as opposed to clinical assessments and patient reports, since the disease was characterized for first time more than 200 years ago.

The technique, known as the alpha-synuclein seed amplification test, analyzes the buildup of abnormal proteins linked to Parkinson’s disease, which evidence suggests occurs in the early stages of the disease. and before the loss of certain nerve cells which is the only other signal of biological change. Parkinsons.

The molecular test has been able to successfully identify nearly 90% of people diagnosed with the disease, the researchers said, even before the diagnosis or the onset of symptoms such as loss of smell or movement problems.

Writing in a linked comment, neurologists Daniela Berg and Christine Klein, who were not involved in the study and are based at Germany’s University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein, said the test “finally lays the groundwork for a biological diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease” and praised its ability to detect the condition before any other clinical or physical changes were detectable.

Dr. Kenneth Marek, who co-led the research and is a scientist with the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Parkinson’s Disease Progression Markers Initiative and Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders, said validation of the test ” launches a new biological era in research on Parkinson’s disease” that will “transform” clinical care and the search for treatments, preventions and cures.

Key Context

Parkinson’s disease is an incurable degenerative neurological disease. It largely affects people over the age of 50 and, after Alzheimer’s disease, is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the United States. Treatments, which include brain implants and medications, aim to treat symptoms rather than slowing or reversing the erosion of cognitive abilities by the disease. , which vary from person to person, but can include difficulty walking, movement problems, tremors, memory loss, loss of smell, and depression. In the United States alone, the cost of treating Parkinson’s disease is estimated at $14 billion a year, and as the population ages – the number of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is expected to double by 2040 – these costs are expected to rise.

crucial quote

Actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease decades ago and advocates research into the disease, said he was “deeply moved” by the breakthrough and grateful to everyone involved . Fox is the namesake of the nation’s largest foundation supporting Parkinson’s disease research, including this work, and said “we weren’t looking for fish – we were going after a whale” when the band has set its sights on the biological markers of the disease. “Now we are there,” Fox said, adding, “Together, we are making a cure for Parkinson’s disease inevitable.”

Large number

500,000. That’s the number of Americans diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This figure likely underestimates the true prevalence of the disease, the institute said, because many people are at risk of being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Some experts believe as many as 1 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, the group said.

To monitor

Although a biological marker for Parkinson’s disease is a major breakthrough, the process of collecting cerebrospinal fluid is invasive and more expensive than many other standard medical tests. To unlock the full potential of using the abnormal proteins to signal Parkinson’s disease, Berg and Kline said a “less invasive approach,” including blood tests, will be needed to expand the approach. Nevertheless, they said the discovery is “a game-changer in the diagnosis, research and treatment trials of Parkinson’s disease”.

Further reading

Exclusive: The Michael J. Fox Foundation Announces Winner of Parkinson’s Disease Research Prize Funded by Billionaire Ken Griffin (Forbes)

‘It’s extremely complex’: Scientists work to beat Parkinson’s disease (Guardian)

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