In a ground breaking study that may pave the way for the accurate diagnosis of the Parkinson’s disease, researchers have found accumulation of a nervous system protein just under the skin of patients with this debilitating condition.
At present, there is no standard clinical test to diagnose the Parkinson’s, the most common neurodegenerative condition that affects more than 1 million people in the United States.
The condition is diagnosed through its common symptoms like tremors and rigidity. Doctors tend to rule out all other diseases with the help of clinical tests to conclude that the patient is actually suffering from Parkinson’s. However, by the time the symptoms surface, many of the patient’s brain cells are already destroyed.
The researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) found elevated levels of alpha-synuclein under the skin of Parkinson’s patients. They aver that this protein could potentially serve as a biomarker of the disease.
Roy Freeman, professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Autonomic and Peripheral Nerve Laboratory at BIDMC and senior author of the study said,” A reliable biomarker could help doctors in more accurately diagnosing Parkinson’s disease at an earlier stage and thereby offer patients therapies before the disease has progressed.”
Alpha-synuclien is the principal component of the lewy bodies that are found in the brain cells of Parkinson’s patients.
The researchers followed a hunch that early signs of Parkinson’s might be found in the Autonomic nervous system. The changes in this system can be traced in the skin. Unwarranted or diminished sweating, variation in skin color and temperature are potent indicators.
For the purpose of the study, researchers analyzed 20 Parkinson’s patients and 14 people without this condition. Skin biopsies on the legs of these participants were conducted to measure the alpha-synuclein levels and density of nerve fibers.
The analysis revealed that an elevated level of alpha-synuclien was directly linked with advanced Parkinson’s symptoms and worse functioning of the autonomic nervous system.
“Alpha-synuclein deposition within the skin has the potential to provide a safe, accessible and repeatable biomarker,” concluded Freeman.
Findings of the study find mention in the online issue of the journal Neurology.