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Possible Parkinsons Disease Breakthrough

The accumulation of a protein in the brain is linked to some forms of Parkinson’s disease, confirms a study released today, potentially paving the way for an early diagnosis of the disease.

The high presence of the alpha-synuclein protein in the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes the brain, is of “great precision (to identify) the typical forms of Parkinson’s disease,” summarises the study led by American neurologist Andrew Siderowf that was published in Lancet Neurology.

Parkinson’s disease is, along with Alzheimer’s, one of the main pathologies that affect the brain. However, it is still largely unknown what causes this insidious disease, in which patients gradually lose the ability to move, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

However, several factors associated with the disease are known. Among these, it has been known for several years that patients often have aggregates of the protein alpha-synuclein.

The Lancet Neurology study, which has the advantage of being the first of its kind conducted on hundreds of patients, confirms that by testing the high presence of this protein, the disease can be widely identified.

However, the results are unequally accurate. In patients with a genetic mutation – called LRRK2 – associated with certain forms of Parkinson’s, the presence of aggregates is less systematic.

In particular, it is necessary to determine whether the technique works as well with blood tests, which are much easier to perform than cerebrospinal fluid tests.

But this study “lays the groundwork for a biological diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease,” states neurologists Daniela Berg and Christine Klein, who, although were not involved in the study, published a commentary in the Lancet Neurology. Especially, as it is now proven that the role of alpha-synuclein is a game-changer in the diagnosis, research, and clinical trials of Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers find it particularly interesting that the study also measured the presence of a high concentration of a-synuclein in patients who show early signs of Parkinson’s disease; symptoms included a weakened sense of smell, which could be used as an early identifier of the disease.

Samantha Gannon

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