Autoantibodies join race toward Parkinson's biomarkers

Despite being the second most common neurodegenerative disease worldwide, Parkinson's disease still has no definitive diagnostic tests. New Jersey researchers have pinpointed autoantibodies (misdirected antibodies that target the body's own tissues) that could lead to a blood test.

The researchers, from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine (UMDNJ-SOM) and the spinoff company Durin Technologies, used arrays of human proteins to find 10 autoantibodies that were expressed at higher levels in people with Parkinson's disease. The panel of biomarkers could successfully spot blood samples from Parkinson's patients, and differentiate them from samples from healthy people, as well as from those of people with Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.

 "Parkinson's disease is [the] second most common neurodegenerative disease among older adults and there is widespread recognition that early detection would allow treatment that could slow its progression," said Robert Nagele, Ph.D., a professor of medicine at UMDNJ-SOM and the founder of Durin Technologies, Inc. "A reliable blood test for Parkinson's would have tremendous impact on patients, on physicians and on clinical trials of potential disease-modifying drugs."

A number of teams are also working on finding the elusive biomarkers for this disabling disease, including the University of Lancaster and Cleveland Clinic, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation has set aside $40 million for biomarker research. By allowing treatments to start earlier, biomarker-based blood tests could improve patients' quality of life.

- read the press release
- check out the abstract in PLoS ONE