According to a recent study, a test of how sticky a protein molecule is could help diagnose the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh said early work on a small number of samples proved very accurate.
Sticky clumps of the molecule are found in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s – and in those of some dementia sufferers.
The study is published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.
Using samples of spinal fluid from 38 patients, researchers looked for a protein molecule called alpha-synuclein using a highly-sensitive technique.
The molecule is found in healthy brains but it is only when the protein sticks together in lumps that it causes problems, making brain cells die or stopping them performing properly.
These sticky clumps are called Lewy bodies and are found in the brains of those with Parkinson’s and those of some dementia patients.
In their tests, the Edinburgh researchers correctly identified 19 out of 20 samples from patients with Parkinson’s and three samples from people who were thought to be at risk of the condition.
Healthy samples from 15 people were also correctly identified.
Dr. Alison Green said the technique had already been used successfully to test for Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD), another degenerative brain condition.
She said scientists were interested in whether it could be used to identify people with Parkinson’s, or those with a type of dementia caused by Lewy bodies, in the early stages of their illness.
Dr. Alison Green said the technique was not able to pick up other types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.