A new blood test from Oxford University researchers could identify people at risk of Parkinson’s disease years before symptoms appear.
Researchers at the University of Oxford have unveiled a blood test that can pinpoint with 90 per cent accuracy whether a person is at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
This condition is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. In Europe, it is estimated that 1-2% of people over the age of 65 have this disease.
Physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, impaired or decreased movement, and muscle stiffness. There are also psychological effects, with patients with the disease also experiencing depression, anxiety, and dementia. These symptoms worsen over time.
Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease can be difficult because many of the symptoms are very common. According to Parkinson’s Disease Europe, the later the diagnosis is made, the less likely it is to slow the progression of the disease.
But a blood test developed by a team at the University of Oxford could help speed up the process.
“Screening tests that can be performed at scale to identify disease progression early are essential for ultimately initiating targeted therapy, as is currently done in screening programs for common cancer types. ,” said Professor George Tofaris of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience. oxford university, stated in a statement.
What is alpha-synuclein?
The research team used a modified version of an antibody test to measure levels of alpha-synuclein, a small protein associated with Parkinson’s disease, in the blood.
Parkinson’s disease begins to take hold more than a decade before patients develop noticeable symptoms, as their brain cells struggle to cope with the effects of alpha-synuclein.
These proteins accumulate and form abnormal clusters, damaging susceptible nerve cells, causing well-known movement disorders, and often leading to dementia.
At the time of diagnosis, a significant number of these sensitive nerve cells have already died, and clusters of alpha-synuclein have developed in many areas of the brain.
The University of Oxford team focused on a specific type of extracellular vesicles (tiny particles released by cells of all types) that travel through body fluids, including blood, and facilitate the transmission of molecular signals between cells. I did.
This advanced test isolates extracellular vesicles that originate from nerve cells in the blood (less than 10% of all circulating vesicles) and quantifies the amount of alpha-synuclein present within them. .
Vesicles transport important messages, proteins, and genetic material from one cell to another. They essentially form a sophisticated intercellular messaging system, but at the molecular level.
They play an important role in maintaining balance and coordination of bodily functions.
Researchers at the University of Oxford now believe that nerve cells may protect themselves by packaging excess proteins into extracellular vesicles and releasing them into the bloodstream.
in A study conducted by a team at the University of Oxford on 365 people.individuals at highest risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (more than 80 percent chance based on study criteria) had a two-fold increase in alpha-synuclein levels in extraneuronal vesicles.
The test accurately differentiated them from low-risk or healthy controls and was able to distinguish high-risk people from healthy controls 90 percent of the time.
In a subgroup of 40 people who later developed Parkinson’s disease and related dementia, more than 80% of cases had positive blood tests up to seven years before a formal diagnosis was made.