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Breaking news: Study offers significant validation to biomarker test for detecting Parkinson’s

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As many of us know all too well, people with Parkinson’s can live for years, if not decades, with the disease before noticing motor symptoms. And even when symptoms become bothersome enough to capture our attention, many will experience even further delays as doctors attempt to confirm a diagnosis through medical exams involving finger-tapping and other clinical assessments. For all these reasons, a clear-cut biomarker has been a long-awaited and much-needed tool for the Parkinson’s community.  

And today we are a big step closer. 

New research insights 

Research published in the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet Neurology offers validation of a new biomarker tool.  

In Parkinson’s a protein found in all our brains, called alpha-synuclein (a-syn), takes on an abnormal shape. This appears to be a hallmark feature of the disease, and scientists have made many attempts over the decades to create a biomarker from the a-syn protein. Finally, a significant breakthrough has been achieved using an technique called a Seeding Amplification Assay, or SAA for short.  

In this test, a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sample containing a-syn is taken and the protein content is amplified – making hundreds and thousands of replicas – to determine if abnormal a-syn protein was present in the original sample.  

For many years this technique has been tested and perfected in labs around the world. The publication released today uses the largest dataset to date to validate the technique. Samples from over 1000 participants in the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), including Canadian participants, were analyzed.  

The SAA biomarker test was found to be very accurate at distinguishing people with Parkinson’s from healthy participants. It detected the presence of abnormal protein in samples from individuals with Parkinson’s as well people at high risk of developing Parkinson’s. The accuracy achieved in this large dataset is validation that the SAA biomarker test has potential to eventually be used at the clinical level.  

What this means for you 

This breakthrough research is critical progress for advancing Parkinson’s research. The sooner a person can be diagnosed, the sooner they can start taking steps to manage their Parkinson’s and live well. Being able to quickly and accurately identify people with Parkinson’s will help improve diagnosis wait times and facilitate recruitment for clinical trials – all progress leading us one step closer to improved treatment, and ultimately a cure.  

To continue to stay informed and get a breakdown of all the important Parkinson’s research stories, see our Research News and Updates page, follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter below.  

Hear more about this biomarker breakthrough on a recent episode of the When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast: