In Parkinson's disease, the human body generates antibodies to combat the amyloid-producing protein alpha synuclein early in the course of the disease. A simple blood test that measures these antibodies can facilitate early diagnosis of the disorder, writes Ludmilla Morozova-Roche and her associates at Umeå University in Sweden in the latest issue of the journal PLoS One.
The need for diagnostic biomarkers for degenerative disorders affecting the nervous system, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, is great and acute. Early diagnosis of such diseases would enable treatment at a stage when they are most responsive to intervention, during the period when the greatest number of nerve cells are being damaged or dying. Research is underway around the world to develop substances that can affect the course of the disease.
What many neurodegenerative diseases have in common is that they are caused by proteins that lump together into so-called amyloid. Ludmilla Morozova-Roche's research team has found endogenous antibodies against the most important amyloid-producing protein in Parkinson's disease, antibodies that could function as a diagnostic marker for the disease. Monitoring the levels of endogenous antibodies in patients' blood serum is simple and requires nothing more than a blood sample. This can become a method in clinical practice.
Ludmilla Morozova-Roche's research is conducted in collaboration with Lars Forsgren, professor of neurology at Umeå University and chief physician at Norrlands University Hospital in Umeå, who is directing the research program on early diagnostics and monitoring of Parkinson's patients. The findings indicate that autoimmunity may play a protective role in Parkinson's disease. Immune reactions to the disease's most significant amyloid-producing protein alpha synuclein may be of value in developing treatment strategies such as vaccination with amyloid antigens and antibodies, especially in the early stages of the disorder.
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