Diagnostic Test for Early Parkinson’s Diagnosis is a Step Closer

According a study presented in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, investigators may be much closer to a diagnostic test for Parkinson’s disease, after discovering that an abnormal protein connected with the illness can be identified in sufferers’ spinal fluid.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological problem where production of dopamine in the brain is decreased eventually, because of the damage and death of neurons that generate it. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter engaged in the regulation of movement and co-ordination.

Consequently, sufferers with the condition may encounter tremors of the arms, face, hands, jaws and legs, slowed movement, muscle rigidity, reduced posture and balance, and speech issues.

There is presently no specified test for Parkinson’s. The condition is generally diagnosed via evaluation of the sufferer’s medical history, a medical test, and physical and neurological examination, but this can take much longer time.

Dr. Alison Green and colleagues expose how a diagnostic test initially developed to identify Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) could be adapted to identify Parkinson’s.

Test identified Parkinson’s with 95 % accuracy

In their research, Dr. Green and study team report how the test – known as the real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) – precisely identified deposition of the protein alpha-synuclein in the spinal fluid of sufferers with the condition.

Alpha-synuclein is a protein considered to be connected with onset of both Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

In individuals with Parkinson’s, the protein has been identified to form clumps – known as Lewy bodies – in neurons that generate dopamine, while in sufferers with Lewy body dementia, the clumps form in neurons connected with cognitive capabilities.

While earlier studies have tried to develop a test to identify alpha-synuclein, these have created conflicting outcomes. This is because the protein is present in the brains of healthy people, only resulting in problems when it clumps together.

The diagnostic test from Dr. Green and colleagues, however, has the capability to determine the stickiness and buildup of proteins, a signal of whether they are probably to cause disease.

For their research, the investigators applied the test to 20 samples of spinal fluid obtained from sufferers with Parkinson’s disease, together with samples of 15 healthy people.

They identified the test was capable to determine 19 out of 20 of samples with 95 % reliability and 100 % specificity. It was also capable to identify accumulation of the protein in 3 spinal fluid samples of people at great risk for Parkinson’s.

The study team also applied the test to samples of sufferers with Lewy body dementia. In comparison with control samples, the test was capable to identify the condition with 92 % reliability and 100 percent specificity.

A ‘considerable development’ towards early test for Parkinson’s

While these outcomes should be confirmed in a greater sample of sufferers, the investigators are optimistic that their results could result in much-needed diagnostic tests for both Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia.

Dr. Green states that previous diagnosis for these sufferers may mean greater contribution in clinical studies of new drugs to prevent disease or slow development.

Dr. Beckie Port, senior research communications officer at Parkinson’s UK, states that the research team’s results could one day fulfill the need for a simple, appropriate test for Parkinson’s.

“Even though early days, the truth that investigators have designed a new test that is capable to identify abnormal alpha-synuclein in the spinal fluid of individuals with Parkinson’s with remarkable specificity and sensitivity, is greatly promising.

Further study is required to test additional samples to see if the outcomes continue to hold true, but this could be a considerable development to a future early diagnostic test for Parkinson’s.”