New Tech can help Distinguish Between Multiple System Atrophy and Parkinson’s Disease

According to a story from Medical Xpress, a new technological approach developed at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston will allow doctors to distinguish between Parkinson’s disease and a rarer illness called multiple system atrophy, which causes similar symptoms. It is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s. As the diseases require different approaches for treatment, an accurate diagnosis is important so that patients can get treated promptly and effectively.

About Multiple System Atrophy

Multiple system atrophy, which is also called Shy-Drager syndrome, is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder. It is most characterized by progressive loss of movement ability and voluntary muscle control. Symptoms include slowed movements, muscle stiffness, tremors, ataxia, and postural instability. Other symptoms including impotence, vocal palsy, urinary tract issues, dry mouth, and reduced ability to sweat may also appear. Treatment is mostly supportive; physical therapy, rehabilitation, and speech therapy are useful for maintaining movement and other capabilities. To learn more about multiple system atrophy, click here.

About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a type of long term, progressive, degenerative illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms tend to develop over a period of years and primarily affect the movement ability and mental state of the patient. Symptoms include slowed movements, poor coordination, trouble walking, shaking, stiffness, abnormal posture, depression, anxiety, inhibited thinking, hallucinations, and dementia. Treatment may involve a number of medications, rehabilitation, and surgical operations. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, click here.

Research Findings

Multiple system atrophy often progresses more rapidly than Parkinson’s, but not to the extent that it is easily diagnostic. The researchers used a special technology called Protein Misfolding Cyclic Amplification (PMCA). This technology was first utilized by the scientists in order to create a highly precise, biochemical method for diagnosing Parkinson’s.

Multiple system atrophy and Parkinson’s are similar in that they are both characterized by the appearance of alpha-synuclein protein (aSyn) in the nervous systems. However, through the use of PMCA, the scientists demonstrated that the appearance of aSyn in the diseases had distinct molecular differences with a sensitivity of 95.4 percent. This gives physicians an effective tool for determining which disease a patient has even when symptoms are similar.

However, currently the PMCA tech required a spinal tap, which is an invasive process for patients. Hopefully, future research will further optimize PMCA so that it can detect protein differences in other fluids such as urine or blood. 

Check out the original study here.


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