Parkinson's disease gene cluster marks early diagnosis

There is currently no blood test available for Parkinson's disease, and diagnosis is based on symptoms and neurological observations. This makes it hard to diagnose the disease at really early stages when starting treatment is most important, but a panel of genetic biomarkers from an Israeli team could make the possibility of a blood test more feasible.

The team of researchers looked at blood samples from 62 patients with early stage Parkinson's disease as well as 64 healthy people, using a panel of 5 genes based on earlier brain research. The panel was a bale to identify people at risk of developing Parkinson's disease, and could also differentiate between Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. When it was used to screen a group of 30 people with advanced disease, the results suggested that it could also have potential to assess how severe the disease is and how far it has progressed. The results were published in Molecular Neurodegeneration.

"The findings strengthen the assumption that a 5-gene panel in the blood allows to diagnose early stage Parkinson's disease, with a possible diagnostic value for detection of the disease before the appearance of the characteristic motor symptoms," say the Technion researchers. "The biomarker could assist in diagnosing individuals at presymptomatic stages of the disease (patients with depression, sleep disturbances or hyposmia (reduced ability to smell) or patients carrying genetic risk factors) who are good candidates for neuroprotective treatment."

This gene-based test, alone or in combination with imaging or biomarker tests, could help with spotting the disease at an earlier stage, perhaps even before symptoms become clear, when current and future treatments in development could help to slow the progression of the disease. Tests of this type could also be used to monitor the progress of treatment, both in the clinic and in drug development trials, as well as to select patients most likely to benefit from treatment.

- read the press release
- check out the abstract