promising biomarker for parkinson’s disease: PPMI results

Parkinson’s disease is typically characterized in a clinical setting by the present of tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (slow movement), and in the later stages, postural instability (balance).

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania report ( JAMA Neurology) that the appearance of proteins in the spinal fluid may be the key to identifying affected patients early in the disease process, long before symptoms set in. The study results, which came from the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study. PPMI is sponsored by the Michael J Fox Foundation and aims to take biological measurements from 400 patients and 200 healthy controls to better understand the onset and progression of the disease.

The study found that people with early stage Parkinson’s had lower levels of the biomarker proteins amyloid beta and alpha synuclein.

It also distinguished between people with different disease presentations:

  • those with higher levels of motor dysfunction,  had lower levels of tau and alpha synuclein,
  • those whose muscles tended to freeze, or people who had difficulty walking, showed lower levels of amyloid beta and tau.

These promising results suggest we may be able to detect Parkinson’s with spinal fluid earlier, which could change the way it is diagnosed and treated. It also suggests for the first time that there may be different types of the disease with different potential treatments. This seems to support the hypothesis that Parkinson’s disease is a “spectrum”, and that people are diagnosed and face different disease along the “dopamine spectrum”.

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Having a biomarker to enable earlier detection and better disease management will improve the quality of life of all those involved. Really exciting! much love.

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