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Parkinson’s: soon an early diagnosis?

Parkinson’s disease progresses slowly before showing itself late with certain signs such as tremors and stiffness of the arms and legs. Thanks to a recent scientific discovery allowing the realization of an early diagnosis, this could soon change.

Most of the time, Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative pathology, is often diagnosed years after its onset on the basis of clinical symptoms such as tremors or difficulty performing certain gestures. If the patients have a normal life expectancy, their daily life is marred by physical difficulties which tend to increase over time. Because this pathology is characterized by the progressive destruction of the neurons involved in the control of movements (the dopamine neurons of the black substance of the brain). Generally asymptomatic for several years, it is discovered only when the brain can no longer compensate for the lack of cerebral dopamine and the parkinson is already at an advanced stage.

A simple blood test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease

“The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is difficult because it is based on the presence of clinical signs that only appear late in the course of the disease”confirms the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), before adding: “However, this could change: a research team has just developed a blood test whose precision could be sufficient to specifically identify the disease, even in its infancy. »

A chance discovery

Sabrina Boulet and Florence Fauvelle, both researchers at the Grenoble Institute of Neurosciences, have succeeded in developing a biomarker to differentiate between healthy individuals and those with early Parkinson’s disease, from a simple blood test. . It is especially by studying animals “which specifically mimic the early stages” of the disease that they observed changes in the “metabolome”. However, these same changes are found in patients with Parkinson’s disease, even at an early stage. The metabolome is the set of metabolites (organic substances produced by the transformations carried out within the cell) present in a biological sample. It represents a kind of marker of the biological processes taking place in a person’s organism. It evolves over the course of life and the diseases that one can develop.

A safe test over 80%

This discovery allowed the researchers to implement a strategy by combining results from animals and humans with Parkinson’s. They thus succeeded in “defining a biomarker comprising several specific compounds, which makes it possible to discriminate between people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and people who are not affected, with an accuracy of 82.6%”, notes Inserm. The research will therefore continue by studying samples from patients taken before having declared Parkinson’s. “If it were validated, one can imagine that this biomarker could be used in routine clinical practice, to diagnose people suspected of being affected or who are at high risk of developing the disease”develops Florence Fauvelle.

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Hope for a cure

Today, we do not yet know how to cure Parkinson’s. We only know how to alleviate the symptoms thanks to pharmacological treatments, by also associating complementary therapies such as physiotherapy or speech therapy. “If this analysis were also sensitive enough to spot the disease in its early stages, it could help in the development of curative drugs, which would target the mechanisms of disease progression”, underlines Inserm. To develop such drugs, it is first necessary to understand how the very first events at the origin of the pathology occur. This is also the subject of research by the team of Sabrina Boulet and Florence Fauvelle.

Parkinson’s is the most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. It affects more than 200,000 people in France, nearly 2% of whom are over 65 years old. One in two individuals begins the disease before the age of 58 and more than 25,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

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