Blood Test Predicts Parkinson’s Up to 7 Years Before Symptoms Appear: Study

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A new for Parkinson's disease might mark a significant breakthrough, as researchers say it can predict the disease seven years before any symptoms appear.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system which typically starts with tremors and over time affects various aspects such as memory, balance, posture, mobility, and speech. More than 10 million people across the globe live with the condition.

There is currently no for Parkinson's disease. The treatment, which involves supportive dopamine to relieve symptoms and maintain quality of life, typically begins after individuals have already developed symptoms.

However, researchers believe that early prediction and diagnosis of Parkinson's could yield improved treatment prospects by safeguarding dopamine-producing brain cells. With this in consideration, the researchers from the University College London and University Medical Center Goettingen, Germany, developed a blood test that uses artificial intelligence to detect Parkinson's disease about seven years before onset.

“As new therapies become available to treat Parkinson's, we need to diagnose patients before they have developed the symptoms. We cannot regrow our brain cells and therefore we need to protect those that we have. At present, we are shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted and we need to start experimental treatments before patients develop symptoms,” said senior author Kevin Mills in a news release.

For the trial, the team analyzed blood samples from 72 participants with Rapid Eye Behavior Disorder (iRBD), where individuals physically act out their dreams unknowingly. Approximately 75% to 80% of those with iRBD will develop synucleinopathy, a brain disorder linked to abnormal alpha-synuclein protein buildup.

Through machine learning, the researchers detected a Parkinson's disease-like profile in 79% of individuals with iRBD. The AI examined eight blood-based biomarkers typically altered in Parkinson's patients. Moreover, the team could successfully predict the onset of Parkinson's in 16 participants, seven years before any symptoms manifested.

“By determining 8 proteins in the blood, we can identify potential Parkinson's patients several years in advance. This means that drug therapies could potentially be given at an earlier stage, which could possibly slow down disease progression or even prevent it from occurring,” said co-first-author Dr Michael Bartl.

“We have not only developed a test, but can diagnose the disease based on markers that are directly linked to processes such as inflammation and degradation of non-functional proteins. So these markers represent possible targets for new drug treatments,” Bartl added.

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