Identifying signs of Parkinson’s disease 20 to 30 years before symptoms appear may be possible, researchers at The Florey and Austin Health in Australia have shown. Their work, published in the journal Neurology, opens the door to detection programs and preventive treatments before irreversible damage occurs.
Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease, is often considered a disease of old age, when in fact it begins in middle age and may not be detected for decades, according to Kevin Barnham, a professor at The Florey.
“Parkinson’s disease is very difficult to diagnose until symptoms appear, where up to 85% of the neurons in the brain that control motor coordination are destroyed,” he explained. At this point, many treatments are likely to be ineffective. “Our long-term goal is to find a way to detect the disease earlier and treat people before damage is done,” he added
In their study, lead researcher Professor Barnham and colleagues describe how a known biomarker called F-AV-133 can be used in positron emission tomography (PET) scans to diagnose the disease. Parkinson’s disease and accurately track neurodegeneration.
Each person underwent two PET scans two years apart. According to the results, there were no significant changes in clinical symptoms for any of the participants, based on currently available assessments for Parkinson’s disease.
According to calculations and mathematical models: a total of approximately 33 years of slow neuron loss in Parkinson’s disease. This loss occurs for about 10.5 years before the disease is detected on a PET scan, and once the PET scan detects the disease, it takes another six and a half years before motor symptoms appear.
If physical symptoms appear, it may take three years until a clinical diagnosis is confirmed. This corresponds to neuronal loss occurring at about 22.5 years before clinical symptoms are sufficient for diagnosis.
Professor Barnham emphasized that these findings open the way for the development of screening protocols to diagnose and treat Parkinson’s disease up to 10 years earlier than is currently possible. It also helps identify patients for clinical trials.
Lack of muscle atonia (sleep paralysis) occurs in people with RBD who scream or thrash, sometimes loudly, while sleeping and act out vivid, bad dreams. 90% of these people with RBD develop Parkinsonian disease.