A Groundbreaking Breakthrough: The Parkinson’s Biomarker
Jun. 16, 2023
In the realm of Parkinson’s research, the recent identification of a biomarker which can diagnose Parkinson’s with 98% accuracy represents a significant advance in our understanding of Parkinson’s.
This groundbreaking development promises to over time revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease, marking a significant milestone. Professor David Finkelstein, head of the Parkinson’s Laboratory at The Florey Institute, Director on the Fight Parkinson’s board and the chair of the Fight Parkinson’s research committee, has shared this important advance at a Fight Parkinson’s Community seminar just days after the Michael J Fox foundation publishing their research in the prestigious journal, The Lancet.
The search for a Parkinson’s biomarker which can accurately provide a diagnosis of Parkinson’s has been lengthy. Until this discovery, diagnosis of Parkinsons was clinical, based on examination and identification of symptom and ultimately confirmed at post-mortem.
A clinical diagnosis can at times lead to an incorrect diagnosis, particularly when the symptoms being experienced differed from a classic presentation. The biomarker, a biological indicator that can be measured objectively, offers the potential to transform the diagnostic process for Parkinson’s disease.
The study that led to the discovery of this biomarker was conducted over a decade under the auspices of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Over a thousand participants were followed meticulously, with researchers sequentially analysing various factors such as blood, spinal fluid, brain scans, and more. The dedication of individuals living with Parkinson’s to contribute their data has culminated in a remarkable outcome: the identification of a reliable biomarker for Parkinson’s disease.
The practical implications of this biomarker are profound. With a drop of spinal fluid and a smell test, a diagnosis can now be made with astonishing 98% accuracy. This replaces the prior method, which often required multiple tests and a process of elimination. Early and accurate diagnosis, made possible by this biomarker, offers invaluable benefits for both patients and researchers.
Two published papers underscore the significant progress in research towards early diagnosis. The first highlights that current diagnostic accuracy stands at around 80% when using traditional methods.
The second paper delves into the mechanics of a simple “scratch and sniff” examination. This user-friendly approach involves scratching tabs infused with various scents and recording the results. These tests proved high effectiveness in identifying Parkinson’s even in individuals prior to the onset of motor symptoms, highlighting its potential for early detection and intervention.
With the biomarker test, accuracy in diagnosis increases to 98%. This offers a remarkable boost in precision and confidence for both community, researchers and medical practitioners. The most significant impact of the biomarker’s impact extends beyond diagnosis. It holds promise for transforming the landscape of clinical trials. With the ability to accurately identify Parkinson’s patients, researchers can now ensure a higher degree of homogeneity in trial participants, enabling more precise evaluations of potential treatments.
However, as with any groundbreaking advancement, there are considerations to address. Ethical and practical questions arise, such as the choice of undergoing an invasive lumbar puncture for diagnostic purposes. This procedure is no small thing. These issues necessitate careful navigation and dialogue between patients and healthcare providers. Efforts are already underway to make this test more accessible by developing blood tests or a skin biopsy instead of the lumbar puncture.
The initial use of the Biomarker will be in research and clinical trials with the capacity to ensure that trial participants have a biologically confirmed diagnosis of Parkinsons increasing their accuracy and accelerating development of therapies to treat, slow or stop progression of Parkinson’s.
The journey toward widespread adoption of this biomarker is in its infancy and ongoing. Research and regulatory hurdles must be cleared and comprehensive guidelines for its use need to be established.
Nonetheless, the Parkinson’s community stands on a new era in understanding and addressing the disease, with the biomarker acting as a guiding light towards more accurate diagnoses, stratified or personalized treatment strategies, and enhanced quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s.
As the Parkinson’s community eagerly awaits further developments, the potential this newly discovered biomarker remains. David Finkelstein’s insights into this transformative breakthrough serve as a beacon of hope, guiding the community towards a future where Parkinson’s can be identified earlier, managed more effectively, and one day a cure - discovered.