A skin test might shed new light on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, according to a study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., April 18 to 25, 2015. The study showed that skin biopsies can be used to detect elevated levels of abnormal proteins found in the two diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease is ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and 5.4 million Americans are currently diagnosed with it. Parkinson’s disease affects one million Americans, with at least 60,000 new cases reported annually. Research from
Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva and colleagues shows that the skin might offer new possibilities for research on both diseases. According to Rodriguez-Leyva, until now, pathological confirmation of the diseases was not possible without a brain biopsy. Because of this, these diseases often go unrecognized until the disease has progressed. Since skin has the same embryonal origin as brain tissue, the researchers hypothesized that they might also show the same abnormal proteins.
For the study, researchers took skin biopsies from people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to see if specific types of altered proteins were found. As compared to healthy patients and ones with dementia caused by other conditions, those with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s had seven times higher levels of tau protein. People with Parkinson’s also had an eight times higher level of alpha-synuclein protein than the healthy control group. “The findings are exciting because we could potentially begin to use skin biopsies from living patients to study and learn more about these diseases”, says Rodriguez-Leyva. He also states that the proteins offer a potential biomarker that may allow doctors to identify and diagnose the diseases earlier on.
Source: American Academy of Neurology
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