Parkinson’s Disease Biomarker May Lie Right Below Our Skin

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A major breakthrough in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease may have been made when researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) discovered that a nervous system protein tends to collect in higher levels just beneath the skin of patients with the neurodegenerative disease.

Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox in 2011
Source: Thomas Atilla Lewis

Parkinson’s disease is the most frequently occurring neurodegenerative disease in the US, affecting over 1 million people. Those who are not directly affected with the condition or do not know someone suffering from the disease are likely familiar with it from actor Michael J. Fox’s public struggles with the condition. However, the disease is still difficult to diagnose, as there are no standard clinical tests.

Currently, the disease is frequently only diagnosed when symptoms like tremors appear, which is well after a significant amount of brain cells have been damaged or destroyed. If the new study’s findings are true, that may be changed in the near future.

According to their findings, published in a recent issue of the online journal Neurology, elevated levels of a nervous system protein called alpha-synuclein can be detected in the skin of patients with Parkinson’s disease. It could potentially serve as a biomarker for the disease, allowing earlier diagnosis before severe symptoms set in.

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