by Sahil Rawal (’19)
Parkinson’s disease is a condition that causes lower levels of dopamine in the brain, leading to neurodegeneration. Parkinson’s is commonly seen in older patients, and causes a loss of muscle control. Till now, there was no test for Parkinson’s that would guarantee its diagnosis; rather, physicians analyzed medical histories and conducted neurological tests to look for signs of Parkinson’s. However, Dr. Fairfoul and his team of researchers from The National CJD Research & Surveillance Unit at the University of Edinburgh have found a method that can be more accurate.
This study utilized a new method called real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC), which detects the concentration of a protein called alpha-synuclein in biological fluids, such as the cerebrospinal fluid. This protein is believed to be a precursor for Parkinson’s disease, and as a result, can be used to diagnose the disease. The researchers used the test on 20 samples of fluid, and found that the test was able to identify the presence of alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s patients with 95% accuracy and 100% specificity.
Although the study had a relatively small amount of fluid samples, it did show that the RT-QuIC test can be useful in predicting the onset of Parkinson’s disease, and future studies should focus on amplifying this work, so physicians can be quicker and more efficient in tracking this disease.
1) G. Fairfoul, et al., Alpha-synuclein RT-QuIC in the CSF of patients with alpha-synucleinopathies. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 1-7 (2016). doi: 10.1002/acn3.338