Soon there could be a new skin test that offers a potential bio-marker that may allow doctors to identify and diagnose Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. A new study has revealed that skin biopsies can be used to detect elevated levels of abnormal proteins in both the diseases.
Study author Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva said, "Until now, pathological confirmation was not possible without a brain biopsy, so these diseases often go unrecognized until after the disease has progressed. We hypothesized that since skin has the same origin as brain tissue while in the embryo that they might also show the same abnormal proteins. This new test offers a potential bio-marker that may allow doctors to identify and diagnose these diseases earlier on."
For the study, researchers studied skin biopsies from 20 people with Alzheimer's disease, and of 16 with Parkinson's disease and 17 with dementia caused by other conditions and compared them to 12 healthy people in the same age group. They tested these skin samples to see if specific types of altered proteins were found, ones that indicate a person has Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. They found that as compared to healthy patients and ones with dementia caused by other conditions, those with both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's had seven times higher levels of the tau protein. Study participants with Parkinson's also had an eight times higher level of alpha-synuclein protein than the healthy control group.
Rodriguez-Leyva said, "More research is needed to confirm these results, but the findings are exciting because we could potentially begin to use skin biopsies from living patients to study and learn more about these diseases. This also means tissue will be much more readily available for scientists to study. This procedure could be used to study not only Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but also other neurodegenerative diseases."
The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., April 18 to 25, 2015.