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New Protein Test Brings Early Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis Closer to Reality

Posted on September 6, 2016 by Disability Help Group

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are looking at repurposing a test for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) to detect early signs of Parkinson’s disease. Current diagnosis of Parkinson’s relies on assessment of medical history compared with a medical examination and physical and neurological tests.

Because there is no single clear test to identify the disorder, patients may wait years for a diagnosis, allowing the disease to progress further without treatment.

Now, researchers are utilizing the real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) test to detect an abnormal gathering of protein alpha-synuclein in patients’ spinal fluid. This protein is abnormally present in clumps in Parkinson’s patients.

Previous tests for the protein have been conflicting, as the protein is a normal presence in healthy brains, but the clumping action proves to be dangerous.

In patients with Lewy body dementia, the clumps of alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies, form in the neurons associated with cognitive abilities. In Parkinson’s patients, the Lewy bodies form in dopamine-producing neurons.

The clump’s adhesion causes the telltale tremors and impaired coordination of Parkinson’s. Since the proteins do not normally clump, researchers are seeking to find a way to detect the chance of the proteins becoming “sticky” before they can produce Lewy bodies.

The RT-QuIC test helped researchers identify 19 out of 20 spinal fluid samples as those of Parkinson’s patients with 95 percent accuracy and 100 percent specificity.

It also gave an early high-risk warning to three healthy patients with a buildup of alpha-synuclein.  The same test was able to identify Lewy body dementia with 92 percent accuracy and 100 percent specificity.

Parkinson’s Disease Can Rob Workers of Their Ability to Work

Workers who rely on fine motor skills may quickly lose their ability to work after the onset of Parkinson’s disease. While there is no known cure, there are treatments to help delay or reduce the impact it has on a patient’s life. If doctors detect Parkinson’s early, it could open new opportunities for early intervention and perhaps stop the disease before it starts.

If you or a loved one can no longer work due to Parkinson’s disease, the Disability Help Group can help you apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Contact us at 800-800-2009 to schedule a consultation with a disability advocate.