A study carried out by the Parkinson’s Unit of the Neurology Department of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, has developed a new way to diagnose Parkinson’s disease in patients with sleep disorders. The diagnostic test is carried out in the submandibular gland, located in the back of the mouth, to detect the protein alpha–synuclein, found in the neurons of persons with this disease.
PARKINSON DISEASE AFFECTS BRAIN AREAS FOR CONTROL AND COORDINATION OF MOVEMENT AND BALANCE
The study was published in scientific journal, The Lancet Neurology, and was coordinated by Eduard Tolosa – researcher at the Centre for Networked Biomedical Research on Neurodegenerative Diseases (Ciberned) and Professor at the University of Barcelona.
Parkinson’s is a chronic, neurodegenerative pathology affecting areas in the brain responsible for the control and coordination of movement, as well as equilibrium.
People with Parkinson’s also have various symptoms which are non-motor-related, including the loss of the sense of smell, cognitive decline and REM phase sleep problems, which can appear years before the development of the disease. These symptoms are provoked by an accumulation of protein known as Lewy Bodies. Detecting the presence of Lewy Bodies early enables early diagnosis of the disease, so that treatment can commence.
In the study, the researchers sought to ascertain whether or not a biopsy in the submandibular gland can detect alpha-synuclein aggregates. Tests were carried out on 21 patients with REM phase sleep disorders, 24 with Parkinson’s and 26 healthy individuals.
RESULTS SHOW THAT BIOPSY IS A CONFIRMATION PROOF
The results are hopeful, since the protein was found in 90 per cent of patients with sleep disorders and 70 per cent of those with Parkinson’s; the protein was not found in the healthy individuals.
According to Alex Iranzo (researcher at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute – IDIBAPS) and neurologist at the Multidisciplinar Unit of Sleep Disorders of the Hospital Clínic, the results indicate that the biopsy serves as a confirmative test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease in persons in whom the disease has still not manifested itself. Moreover, the testing method is only lightly invasive and is tolerated ‘well’.
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