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Every year an estimated 60,000 new cases of the neurodegenerative disease, Parkinson’s, are diagnosed in the U.S. Currently, an estimated 1½ million Americans have Parkinson’s disease.

Diagnosis of Parkinson’s is done solely based on the patient’s symptoms. Unfortunately, conditions such as multi-system atrophy or progressive suprancuclear palsy look a lot like Parkinson’s. As a result approximately 10% of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s have been misdiagnosed and prevents them from getting the treatment that is best for them.

Dr. M. Flint Beal, Chairman of Neurology, and Anne Parrish Titzell, Professor of Neurology, both of Weill Cornell  Medical College, collected blood from 66 Parkinson’s patients who were either receiving–or not receiving–treatment for the disease. The blood from the 2 groups was compared for metabolomic patterns, then the blood from both groups was compared to blood from a control group who did not have Parkinson’s. What emerged was a pattern of 160 different compounds that were specific to the Parkinson’s patients.

The significance of many individual compounds to the disease remains unknown, but changes in a few metabolites are linked to oxidative stress and linked to Parkinson’s. These included low levels of the antioxidant uric acid; an increase in blood levels of another antioxidant, glutathione; and increased levels of a marker for oxidative damage called 8-OHdG.

The researchers are increasing the number subjects involved in the study and also have begun to take periodic samples of their blood to serve as a benchmark for the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Using the ‘metabolomic’ alterations of small molecules in the serum, researchers hope to develop an unique pattern that identifies individuals that either have developed–or are vulnerable to–Parkinson’s disease. This will lead to an accurate diagnostic blood test for Parkinson’s disease.