Researchers in Melbourne have found a breakthrough method of blood test to diagnose Parkinson disease. This test is done by measuring the proteins in blood much before the symptoms arrive. The test is done by a team of Howard Florey Institute, Mental Health Research Institute and Melbourne University specialists.
They have also created a genetic test for PD which has a broader application as it can screen many types of PD and monitor treatment for it. It can also monitor the effectiveness of the medicines used to treat the disease.
The research will pave the way for the development of new drugs for the disease or even delay the disease to some extent. The researchers are hopeful that within two years they would be able to make available the test to public who are at risk of developing it. It will be cheaper and quicker results could be achieved.
Dr Qiao-Xin Li and colleagues from The University of Melbourne and The Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria, along with Prof Malcolm Horne from the Howard Florey Institute, found people with PD had low levels of the brain-secreted protein 'alpha-synuclein' in their blood, while people without PD had high levels of the protein.
It is also the first test which is able to differentiate between those who will get it and those who will not.
"Currently there is no specific PD diagnostic test so doctors rely on their observations to make a diagnosis, which means some patients may not be prescribed the most suitable medication and around 15% of those diagnosed may actually be suffering from something else," Prof Horne said. He says "if we can first understand why people with Parkinson's have this low protein level, then drugs can be designed to actually stop the process."
In the next few months clinical trials will begin involving 150 Australians. Parkinson disease is second most common neurodegenerative disorder affecting 1% of the Australian population over the age of 65. Parkinson's is second only to dementia as the most common chronic neurological condition. 80,000 Australians have Parkinson's and 4,000 are diagnosed each year. 20,000 Victorians have Parkinson's, and over 1,000 are diagnosed each year, or nineteen each week. It costs the Government almost 1 billion dollars each year, and it is expected to rise.