Scientists may have discovered something crucial for the future of Parkinson’s research.
They found a new way to observe changes in the brain from Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, research suggests that the changes in the fluid in parts of the brain could help record the damage from Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive central nervous system disorder that affects movement in the body. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a subtle tremor in one of the hands, and then can progress to great stiffness, slurred speech, and even cognitive issues. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, click here!
Supported by the NIH, this study was published in the journal Brain. Program Director of NINDS, Daofen Chen, PhD, commented that, in fact, this study gives an important resource for how to assess if a drug can stop, or at least slow, brain damage in Parkinson’s disease. Further, it can most importantly prevent symptoms from progressing.
The lead researcher, David Vaillancourt, PhD and his team used a special type of MRI scanning to look specifically at the “free” water outside of brain cells on the substantia nigra. (Parkinson’s disease kills neurons on this brain structure.)
Their results were significant, showing that the free water in the substantia nigra stayed consistent over a span of one year for healthy individuals. However, the amount of free water increased over the course of a year in patients with early-stage Parkinson’s patients and increased even more over the subsequent three years.
Dr. Vaillancourt believes that this progressive increase is correlated with the progressive degeneration of neurons. Compared to patients that remained at the same stage over the span of four years, patients who moved up a stage had a significantly larger free water increase.
This finding implies that the change reflected Parkinson’s-related damage to the neurons, and further pinpoints a biological importance of free water.
This information suggests to researchers that free water measurement using MRI can assist in future clinical trials of Parkinson’s disease. An effective treatment might show a slow or stop in the increase of free water in these MRIs.
To learn more about the research and future implications of this study from Medical Xpress, click this link.