AMES, Iowa — For patients dealing with Parkinson’s disease, a tremor in their hands may be the first symptom they notice. While this is a common sign, it’s not always a reliable gauge of an otherwise difficult disease to diagnose in its early stages. A team at Iowa State University say they’ve made a breakthrough in Parkinson’s research which may lead to an extremely accurate way of spotting the condition. Their study reveals a simple skin test can identify changes in the body caused by the disease.
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder which impairs movement, causes stiffness and a loss of balance. The symptoms commonly include tremors in the hands and slurred speech that worsens over time. Currently, there is no cure for the disease.
Prof. Anumantha Kanthasamy says Parkinson’s is particularly hard to diagnose and doctors often misdiagnose it early on. Even worse, the disease is only definitively diagnosed through an autopsy following the patient’s death.
The study finds the new skin examination detects clumping in alpha-synuclein proteins. Misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins accumulating in the brain are a telltale sign of Parkinson’s. These buildups lead to neuronal damage, bringing on the impaired motor functions in patients. While these clumps center in the brain, study authors say they’re also detectable in skin and tissue samples.