Chemical fingerprint points to a likely biomarker for 'fast' form of Parkinson's

Beate Ritz--Courtesy of UCLA

Physicians have always been somewhat mystified at the rate of disease progression among Parkinson's patients. For some, there's a slow onslaught of symptoms, while others can find themselves in a wheelchair, demented or severely depressed in a few short years. But a new study out of UCLA points to a potential biomarker for identifying which patients have the "fast" form of the disease and will need significant help early on.

The scientists started by taking blood samples from 250 early-stage Parkinson's patients whose cases were monitored over the next 5 to 10 years. Forty of the patients were identified with fast Parkinson's and another 40 were flagged for slow progression.

Using mass spectrometry, the investigators determined that N8-acetyl spermidine was highly elevated in the blood of patients who suffered from the fast form of the disease.

Armed with this information, scientists could use this biomarker to begin to design studies for new therapies or perhaps develop new prevention strategies or help better manage the disease.

"This is an important step forward in understanding how Parkinson's evolves," said Beate Ritz, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health. "Such biomarkers reflecting the pathogenesis of Parkinson's are greatly needed due to the fact that the degeneration of the neurons in the brain that produce dopamine--a hallmark of Parkinson's disease--is an irreversible process. In addition, that process begins up to 20 to 30 years before imaging can identify any brain changes."

- here's the press release

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