New test for Parkinson’s could diagnose disease before symptoms set in

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Could a new testing method help doctors diagnose Parkinson’s disease before motor symptoms set in? Image credit: moaan/Getty Images.
  • Researchers have developed a very precise technique to identify people with Parkinson’s disease, which could help detect the disease earlier. Previously, no test could provide a conclusive diagnosis in this way.
  • The alpha-synuclein (AAS) seed amplification assay technique was used in a cross-sectional study of 1123 participants and was found to be able to detect those at risk and those with early non-motor symptoms of the Parkinson’s disease before diagnosis.
  • These results suggest that the SAA technique could be used as a biomarker to aid in the early detection of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes movement problems. Some of the early symptoms include tremors, difficulty coordinating movement, and reduced sense of smell.

According to a new study published in The Lancet NeurologyIdentifying the abnormal protein deposits associated with Parkinson’s disease using a specific technique can help detect the disease earlier.

The results of the study validate the effectiveness of the alpha-synuclein (AAS) seed amplification test in accurately identifying people with Parkinson’s disease.

The test could identify people at risk of developing the disease and those with initial non-motor symptoms, even before an official diagnosis.

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the presence of a specific type of protein that accumulates in the brain, causing movement problems and other symptoms.

Previous research has shown that the SAA test can detect this protein. However, a more comprehensive study involving a large group of carefully selected participants had not been carried out until now.

In the new study, the researchers set out to find out if SAA could identify early signs of Parkinson’s disease and distinguish between different forms of the disease.

They studied more than 1,000 people with Parkinson’s disease or at risk of developing it, including those with some symptoms but not the typical tremors or stiffness. The aim was to see if the test could predict who might develop Parkinson’s disease in the future.

The researchers analyzed cerebrospinal fluid samples taken from each participant using the SAA test. This technique can detect very small amounts of a protein called alpha-synuclein which is linked to Parkinson’s disease.

In individuals with no known genetic cause of the disease, the test correctly identified the disease in 96% of cases, while in those with specific genetic variants, the accuracy of the test varied.

The study found that there are some differences in outcomes based on age and sex, especially in people with a certain genetic mutation called LRRK2.

Professor Claudio Sotoprofessor of neurology and director of the George and Cynthia Mitchell Center for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Brain Disorders at UTHealth Houston, lead author of the study, explained the key findings to Medical News Today.

“This study has reported the largest analysis of the diagnostic accuracy of a technology we have developed in the laboratory, called the seed amplification test (SAA) to detect the abnormal protein alpha-synuclein in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Parkinson’s,” Professor Soto said.

“The main abnormality in these patients is the accumulation in the brain of an abnormal form of the protein alpha-synuclein, which becomes toxic and destroys neurons in the brain. In this study, we showed that traces of this abnormal protein can be detected in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Parkinson’s disease with a sensitivity and specificity greater than 90%. »

– Prof. Claudio Soto

“This means the disease can be diagnosed by a simple biochemical test that can be performed on a living patient,” he added.

“Importantly, we were able to detect this marker years before patients presented with the disease. This is important because right now the brain is not yet severely damaged and can be much more easily cured, perhaps even with simple lifestyle changes,” Professor Soto explained.

Dr Elana Clara neurologist and Parkinson’s disease specialist at New Jersey Brain and Spine, not involved in this research, confirmed that “Parkinson’s disease is a disease whose diagnosis has been based solely on clinical examination for over 200 years” .

“The significance of this breakthrough cannot be overstated. This is the first time that we have an objective biomarker that can be identified not only in people with Parkinson’s disease, but also in younger people who may have no symptoms and carry only certain risk factors,” she added.

“Essentially, he can diagnose Parkinson’s disease before it becomes physically apparent, and that’s a game-changer. That said, the test in its current state is only done by collecting cerebrospinal fluid and will likely gain momentum once there is a similar test for blood, sputum, or other fluids. less invasive bodily harm to check.

– Dr. Elana Clar

Dr Akil Palanisamya Harvard-trained doctor and director of the department of integrative medicine at the Sutter Health Institute for Health and Healing in California, also not involved in this research, had a similar perspective, recounting DTM“I found this study exciting because it could potentially be a game-changer for people with Parkinson’s disease.”

“We currently don’t have a test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease – the current standard of care is for diagnosis to be made by a doctor taking a history and performing a neurological exam, and if symptoms improve after onset of Parkinson’s disease medications, this can confirm that the person has Parkinson’s,” Dr. Palanisamy pointed out.

“This study describes the validation of a new technique to accurately diagnose Parkinson’s disease using biological samples from patients. For the first time, we have a way to identify disease early and objectively.

– Prof. Claudio Soto

Professor Soto explained how the new technique not only helps diagnose Parkinson’s disease, but also distinguishes between patients who have symptoms of Parkinsonism but do not have typical Parkinson’s disease.

This is important for designing therapies and identifying people who may benefit from treatment.

Additionally, the tool can identify people who will develop the disease years before sustaining brain damage, which is crucial for early treatment and better outcomes.

Delayed identification of the disease can make it difficult to obtain an effective treatment that can produce substantial benefits.

Dr. Clar stressed that the test “will not change the way we diagnose Parkinson’s disease, nor will it change the way we manage a patient’s care. It is only a question of identifying an abnormal protein, without indicating its quantity, nor if it evolves over time.

“It doesn’t tell us the extent of the disease, or help us predict the rate of progression. It’s also not foolproof; the test may not be positive in all people with Parkinson’s disease, let alone those who are at risk,” she said.

“However, the test will give us greater insight into the biological changes occurring inside the body, help direct specific clinical trials, and most likely influence future drug development,” Dr. Clar noted.

The study had some limitations and the authors suggest that more samples would improve the analysis. The study is also cross-sectional, meaning it was conducted at one point in time, but future studies using samples collected over time could assess other changes.

Ultimately, the research team will continue to study AAS for research and commercialization purposes. Professor Soto is also co-founder, chief scientific officer and director of the board of directors of Amprion, a biotechnology company focused on the commercial use of AAS for the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and other diseases.

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