Go Ask Alice


Go Ask Alice!

A Potential Test for Parkinson Disease Discovered by Scottish Researchers!

It is just twenty years since I stood on the top of a mountain in a small village southeast of Naples, Italy. In my arms I clutched blood samples that were destined to revolutionize the course of research for Parkinson disease (PD). Those samples would lead us to discover that a change in the gene coding for the protein alpha-synuclein was sufficient to cause PD. We soon learned that alpha-synuclein clumps in everyone with PD, whether or not there is a known mutation in the gene.

How fitting that this anniversary be marked by a team from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford announcing the development of an assay to diagnose PD using alpha-synuclein. Previous attempts at measuring the protein have been notably unreliable, but this assay actually measures the ability of an individual’s alpha-synuclein to cause clumping.

The best shot we have at bringing an end to Parkinson’s is being able to test potential neuroprotective therapies early in the disease process. However, the confounding symptoms that constitute early PD can make diagnosis difficult. In the early stages of the disease, a large number of false diagnoses could lead to erroneous results and the possibility of missing a truly effective treatment.

This test, developed by Fairfoul, et al. and published on August 28th ahead of print in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, was able to differentiate alpha-synucleinopathies: Parkinson disease (PD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and even pre-symptomatic PD 100% of the time from healthy controls, from Alzheimer disease (AD), corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and Progressive Supranuclear palsy (PSP). If these results continue to hold up in a larger cohort, a way to more accurately identify Parkinson disease and related synucleopathies could be forthcoming.

Going to the World Parkinson Congress in Oregon?

Be sure to check out the Book Nook and come to my “Meet The Authors” session at 11:30 am on Wednesday, September 21st. I will share what it was like to develop Parkinson disease after having been part of one of the biggest breakthroughs in Parkinson’s research! I will be signing copies of my book, Both Sides Now, A Journey From Researcher to Patient, as well as giving out bookmarks and some fun campaign buttons.Twenty percent of the proceeds from Both Sides Now are donated to the American Parkinson Disease Association to support research and service to Parkinson’s families.

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