Phosphorylated Alpha-Synuclein: The Early Parkinson’s Disease Tracker

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The School of Health and Medicine at the United Kingdom’s University of Lancaster recently investigated the possibility of early detection of Parkinson’s disease, before symptoms show. This is through a blood test looking for phosphorylated alpha-synuclein, a Parkinson’s marker.

“A blood test for Parkinson’s disease would mean you could find out if a person was in danger of getting the disease, before the symptoms started”, lead investigator Dr. David Allsop said. It was found out that phosphorylated alpha-synuclein is common in people with Parkinson’s disease, and then he and his colleagues developed a way to detect it in a blood sample.

This diagnostic tool, according to Allsop, would help the development of medicines that could protect the brain, which would be better for the quality of life and future health of older people.

In this study, they examined the blood samples from 32 people diagnosed with the disease and 30 healthy people with the same age without the disease as controls. Four samples were taken from the individuals with Parkinson’s disease, one every month for four months.

Ultimately, they found out that participants with Parkinson’s disease had sigificantly higher levels of phosphorylated alpha-synuclein compared to the controls. This was not the case for the other forms of alpha-synuclein (oligo-alpha-synuclein, and oligo-phospho-alpha-synuclein), nor for the total of all three.

Based on these results, Allsop and his colleagues went on to develop a simple test that looks for phosphorylated alpha-synuclein in the blood, allowing Parkinson’s disease to be diagnosed at the stage where brain damage has started to occur, long before the symptoms emerge.

According to Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, most people think of Parkinson’s as the outward symptoms, the involuntary movements, but many people with Parkinson’s also develop neurological problems that may be more difficult to detect right away. He also added that having a blood test not only helps doctors rule out other possible causes of the outward symptoms, but it also allows for early detection which can help patients and their caregivers prepare for the possibility of the mental, emotional, and behavioral problems that the disease can cause, as well as possible treatment and care regimen.

The researchers also noted that longitudinal studies undertaken over a more extended time period will be required to determine whether [alpha-synuclein] can act as a marker of disease progression.




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