Researchers have developed a PCR assay to detect higher levels of mitochondrial DNA damage in blood cells.
A new blood test could detect Parkinson’s disease earlier and help to determine who might benefit from specific treatments.
Parkinson’s is a progressive brain condition that causes shaking, involuntary movement, stiff muscles and slow movements.
It can also cause cognitive impairment and mental health disorders and gets worse over time.
More than 8.5 million individuals are estimated to be living with Parkinson’s disease globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Currently, Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed largely based on clinical symptoms after significant neurological damage has already occurred,” senior author Laurie Sanders, an associate professor at Duke University’s medical school, said in a statement.
“A simple blood test would allow us to diagnose the disease earlier and start therapies sooner”.
The researchers developed a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect higher levels of mitochondrial DNA damage in patients with Parkinson’s compared to people who do not have the disease.
Mitochondria, in particular, play a key role in generating energy in cells and their dysfunction has been associated with Parkinson’s disease in previous studies.
The researchers’ experimental blood test was able to detect increased mitochondrial DNA damage in people with a genetic mutation associated with Parkinson’s disease, according to the study published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.
They also looked at whether the test could determine the impact of certain therapies targeting this mutation.
They found that their test detected lower mitochondrial DNA damage in cells treated with the mutation inhibitor.
“Our hope is that this assay could not only diagnose Parkinson’s disease but also identify drugs that reverse or halt mitochondrial DNA damage and the disease process,” Sanders said in a statement.
“This disease takes a terrible toll on people, and we are still just treating the symptoms. It’s important to get new, effective treatments over the finish line”.