Parkinson's disease hit both Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali

Parkinson’s Disease Developments: Blood Test Diagnosis May Be On The Way

The battle to accurately diagnose Parkinson’s disease may be on the verge of a significant breakthrough, as reports indicate that a blood test may soon become a key asset for correctly diagnosing the disorder. Early and correct diagnosis is critical in managing the neurological disorder and news of this potential blood test comes as welcome news to those working in the field of studying Parkinson’s.

As CNN notes, a study recently published in the American Academy of Neurology medical journal details that a newly-developed blood test could lead to significant progress in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease. The neurological disorder is currently diagnosed via a painful spinal tap and doctors face challenges in trying to determine whether a patient is facing Parkinson’s disease or atypical parkinsonism disorders (APDs).

Those with atypical disorders need different treatments than those with Parkinson’s and they often face more intense symptoms and a quickly progressing disease. A reliable blood test that could differentiate between the two disorders and provide early and accurate diagnosis, leading to earlier treatments and interventions, could be a significant game-changer in the field of Parkinson’s and related disorders.

Estelle Getty battled Parkinson's disease
‘Golden Girls’ actress Estelle Getty battled the disorder [Image by AP Photo/Nick UT]

Science Daily details that the blood test looks at a nerve protein called neurofilament light chain protein that is found in both the blood stream and in spinal fluid. The recent study found that the blood test was as accurate as the spinal fluid testing in diagnosing the disease. Doctors would still face limitations and challenges in differentiating between Parkinson’s and APDs, but the blood test could pave the way to earlier and easier diagnosis than what is typically done now with the requirement of a spinal tap. Doctors could then utilize the blood test results alongside other signs and symptoms to differentiate between the disorders.

The blood test is not ready to be utilized widely across the board yet, but the initial studies have provided promising results. The studies show that the blood test provides results similar to those attained via a spinal fluid test, although neither method provides perfect results. Researchers are optimistic, however, that this blood test could become a valuable tool in diagnosing Parkinson’s more easily and earlier than what is typically happening today.

This blood test is not the only bit of good news that has been developing in the realm of Parkinson’s disease research. As Caltech recently reported, a link between Parkinson’s and bacteria in the intestines has been uncovered. A study involving groups of mice provided telling results pointing toward links between gut bacteria and Parkinson’s, with the belief that the bacteria may well be a major contributor to the development of the neurological disease.

Johnny Cash also battled Parkinson's disease
Another celebrity impacted by the neurological disorder was singer Johnny Cash [Image by Hulton archive/Getty Images]

Researchers believe that this discovery regarding the link between gut bacteria and Parkinson’s could lead to important understandings regarding the difficult disease. While additional studies are needed, these recent discoveries could lead to a significant shift in how this neurological disorder is treated. There is currently no way to cure or prevent the disease, and current treatments focus on the brain. If additional research can further pinpoint gut bacteria links to the disease, it would be a major step forward in attacking the disease.

These recent developments related to the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease are exciting to those working with the neurological disorder or affected by the disease. It may take quite some time yet before these potential discoveries progress to the point of being able to help the general population, but many will be keeping an eye out for additional studies to see what conclusions can be drawn as these tests and links are researched further.

[Featured image by Associated Press]

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