This could improve diagnosis and treatment for Parkinsons

Registered Nurse Rebecca Moak poses for a photo in trauma center of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi October 4, 2013. Mississippi is one of at least 20 states that has decided not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare".

A blood test which detects the abnormal metabolisms associated with Parkinsons means quicker and more accurate diagnoses. Image: REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

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Early diagnosis

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative condition, one which causes the deterioration of individuals’ motor functions.

Unfortunately, current methods of diagnosis are based on a system of elimination, as Parkinson’s tends to mimic symptoms of other neurological disorders. Not only is this process time consuming, patients also face the risk of misdiagnosis and delayed treatment—a delayed treatment that may very well lead to the death of a number of brain cells.

Now, a group of researchers from La Trobe University are claiming to have developed the world’s first blood test that allows them to immediately detect the abnormal metabolism of blood cells in patients suffering from Parkinson’s.

The test has, so far, been trialled on a modest test group of 38 individuals—29 of which had Parkinson’s—with the test successfully identifying the hyperactive mitochondria of those who had the disease.

5 years

The team believes that, with sufficient funding for its development, the test could be available to the public in just five years, which could make a world of difference for Parkinson’s disease patients.

Indeed, often, patients are only diagnosed after they have already developed symptoms, which means brain cells have already been destroyed. This could change all that.

Notably, there is no cure for the disease, and to that end, early diagnosis is the key to ensuring patients’ longevity, as they can immediately begin medication and physiotherapy in an effort to slow down the deterioration of motor functions and attempt to slow the damage done to brain cells.

Because of limited funding, the researchers have yet to test whether this hyperactivity is exclusive to Parkinson’s patients or if the same abnormality is present in patients who suffer from other neurological disorders. But funding from the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, as well as its funding partner, the Shake It Up Australia Foundation, has already been provided to further develop the blood test.

Eventually, the team hopes that they will be able to create something that will identify the disease at the earliest stage possible—even before physical symptoms begin to manifest.

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