Supernova by Philipp Berg from the University of Cambridge

Positive steps towards a blood test for Parkinson's

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Research highlighted in the Guardian yesterday suggests that a blood test could be used to help detect Parkinson's.

Researchers at La Trobe University in Australia are in the process of publishing their findings that changes in the blood can be detected in people with Parkinson’s.

The researchers were interested in the cell batteries, known as mitochondria.

In a small group of 38 people, the researchers found that they could detect changes in the mitochondria in the blood cells of people with Parkinson's compared to those who did not have the condition.

Malfunctioning mitochondria

Scientists have previously discovered that the mitochondria may not work properly in the brain cells affected with Parkinson's. It is believed that this could contribute to the loss of brain cells in the condition.

In this study, instead of finding that mitochondria were not working well, the researchers suggest that the mitochondria are working 4 times harder than normal.

However this could also cause problems for cells as toxic by-products made by the mitochondria start to build up.

Urgent need for a simple test for Parkinson's

Claire Bale, Head of Research Communications at Parkinson's UK, comments:

"Parkinson's has no definitive diagnostic test, leaving an urgent need for a simple and accurate way of detecting the condition, particularly in its early stages.

"It's encouraging to see that something as simple as a blood test could be a significant step forward for diagnosing Parkinson's.

"We know the process of diagnosis can take time and waiting for a diagnosis can by very stressful.

"Our recent survey findings, released this week to mark Parkinson's Awareness Week, show that people will often experience negative emotions in the year following their diagnosis, with the news having the hardest emotional impact on younger people with Parkinson's.

"We hope this research will pave the way for larger studies to find out how accurately, and at what stage, a blood test can diagnose Parkinson's – providing a major breakthrough for Parkinson's research and opening up new avenues to test treatments earlier to eventually stop this condition in its tracks."