They find signs to identify Parkinson's up to 20 years before symptoms appear
Researchers from The Florey and Austin Health in Australia have shown that it is possible to detect telltale signs of Parkinson's disease 20 to 30 years before symptoms appear. Their work, published in the journal 'Neurology', opens the door to detection programs and preventive treatments long before irreversible damage occurs.
Kevin Barnham, Professor at The Florey, says Parkinson's disease, a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder, is often considered a disease of old age, when in fact it begins in middle age and can go undetected for decades.
"Parkinson's disease is very difficult to diagnose until symptoms are evident, at which point up to 85% of the neurons in the brain that control motor coordination have been destroyed," he explains. "many treatments are likely to be ineffective. Our long-term goal is to find a way to detect the disease much earlier and treat people before damage is done," he adds.
In their study, lead researcher Professor Barnham and colleagues describe how a known biomarker called F-AV-133 can be used with positron emission tomography (PET) scans to diagnose Parkinson's disease and accurately track neurodegeneration.
In the Melbourne study, Florey Professor Chris Rowe and his team at Austin Health scanned 26 patients with Parkinson's disease, a control group of 12 people, and 11 people with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD). , for its acronym in English), which is a strong indicator of the disease.
Each person underwent two PET scans two years apart. According to the results, there were no significant changes in clinical symptoms for any of the participants based on currently available assessments for Parkinson's disease.
In contrast, PET scans showed "significant neuronal loss" in three key brain regions in individuals with the disease, suggesting that F-AV-133 is a more sensitive means of monitoring neurodegeneration than what is available. at the moment.
As more mathematical models have calculated: a total of approximately 33 years of slow neuronal loss in Parkinson's disease. This loss occurs for about 10.5 years before the disease is detectable on a PET scan, and once the PET scan detects the disease, it takes another six and a half years before motor symptoms appear.
After the appearance of physical symptoms, another three years pass until the clinical diagnosis is confirmed. This equates to neuronal loss occurring for about 22.5 years before clinical symptoms are sufficient for diagnosis.
Professor Barnham highlights that these findings open avenues for developing screening protocols to diagnose and treat Parkinson's disease up to 10 years earlier than is currently possible. It could also help identify patients for clinical trials.
People with RBD scream or thrash, sometimes violently, in their sleep and act out vivid, unpleasant dreams. The cause is lack of muscle atonia (sleep paralysis) and 90% of these people with RBD will develop parkinsonian disease.
In fact, half of people with Parkinson's have RBD, making it an important warning sign of early-stage Parkinson's disease. Therefore, researchers recommend people with RBD consult a sleep specialist and/or a neurologist.
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