Blood-based diagnostic test detects Parkinson’s disease before nerve damage worsens
Author: LabMedica Spanish
Updated Sep 03, 2023
Parkinson’s disease affects about 10 million people worldwide and is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease depends mainly on clinical symptoms, which often occur after significant neurological damage has already occurred. In a major advance, researchers have developed a blood test capable of detecting Parkinson’s disease, allowing for early diagnosis before damage to the nervous system worsens.
To create their diagnostic tool, researchers led by a team of neuroscientists from Duke Health (Durham, North Carolina, USA) focused on DNA damage in mitochondria. Mitochondria are like the power plants for cells: they convert raw energy into fuel that cells use. They have their own DNA, which can be damaged separately from nuclear DNA, which carries most of the organism’s genetic information. Previous research has linked mitochondrial DNA damage to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Duke’s team used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to develop a test that successfully measured higher levels of mitochondrial DNA damage in the blood cells of people with Parkinson’s disease compared to people without the disease.
Image: New blood test finds a key indicator of Parkinson’s disease (photo credit: Freepik)
The new test also found high levels of damaged DNA in blood samples from people with the LRRK2 gene mutation, which has been linked to an increased risk of the disease. The test identified patients with Parkinson’s disease with or without LRRK2 mutations. In additional experiments with Parkinson’s disease patient cells, the PCR-based test showed that it could detect less mitochondrial DNA damage in cells treated with an LRRK2 inhibitor compared to cells from patients who did not receive the inhibitor. This suggests that the test may help identify Parkinson’s patients who may benefit from treatment with LRRK2 kinase inhibitors, even if they do not have an LRRK2 mutation. The researchers now plan to test the test on samples from people in the early stages of the disease, before symptoms appear.
“A simple blood test would allow us to diagnose the disease earlier and start treatment earlier,” said lead author Laurie Sanders, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Duke Medical School. “Furthermore, a clear diagnosis will allow for the accurate identification of patients who may be involved in drug research, leading to the development of better treatments and possibly even treatments.”