Parkinson’s News Today recently featured an upbeat article describing the progress that researchers have made in developing a method of measuring alpha-synuclein’s (AS) progression that cuts discovery time in half with superior diagnostic accuracy.
AS is a protein found mostly in neurons in the brain. The gradual accumulation of this toxic protein causes Lewy body dementia resulting in difficulty with movement, thinking, mood, and behavior. It therefore has potential as a biomarker.
Evidence of the disease is the formation of toxic clumps, which distinguish Parkinson’s patients from people who do not have the disorder.
About Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s affects the brain causing gradual loss of movement and coordination. The nerve cells (neurons) in the brain malfunction and eventually die (neurodegeneration). Some neurons produce dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that sends signals to neurons. Dopamine plays a critical role in transmitting the brain’s instructions for the coordination and movement of muscles. Click here to learn more about Parkinson’s.
Then and Now
Current AS tests of cerebral spinal fluid, which is located in the spinal cord and the brain, show eighty percent specificity (accuracy) in identifying Parkinson’s patients as opposed to healthy individuals. The sensitivity (correct identification) rate is eighty-five percent.
The downside, however, is that the current method of testing takes about five to thirteen days to receive final results. Whereas the new and improved method of testing takes one or two days for results.
The researchers used the new method to test 108 samples of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) taken from people eighty-five years of age who had Parkinson’s diagnosed as moderate-to-advanced. These samples were matched against healthy people (controls).
The Parkinson’s group did not have a history of dementia. The controls did not have a history of any neurological disease nor were there any first-degree members of their family who had Parkinson’s.
The clinical data and samples were supplied by the BioFIND database of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
When the results were analyzed, ninety-seven percent of the Parkinson’s patients were identified accurately. Concurrently, eighty-seven percent of the controls were correctly identified as not having the disease.
It is noteworthy that the performance of the latest test compared favorably with the prior test that also analyzed BioFIND samples.
Another finding of interest is that Parkinson’s patients with a higher level of symptoms caused by REM disorder displayed an increased rate of AS aggregation compared to individuals who did not have the condition. People with REM sleep disorder often physically act out their dreams while remaining asleep.
The researchers suggested that larger studies are needed in the future to resolve outstanding issues.
Check out the original study here.