Parkinson's: Signs can be seen 20 years before the outbreak

Parkinson's: Signs can be seen 20 years before the outbreak

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Breakthrough in the diagnosis of Parkinson's

Researchers at King’s College London have now announced that they have identified the earliest signs of Parkinson's that appear 15 to 20 years before the first symptoms of the disease appear.

The latest study by King’s College London found that the earliest signs of Parkinson's in the brain can be found 15 to 20 years before the first symptoms appear. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "Lancet Neurology".

Will the results help improve treatment?

When examining a small number of high-risk patients, disorders in the so-called serotonin system of the brain, which controls mood, sleep and movement, were found. The researchers report that this discovery could lead to new screening instruments and treatments for Parkinson's.

What is Parkinson's?

Parkinson's is a progressive neurological disorder. The main symptoms are, for example, tremors and depression, in addition, memory and sleep disorders often occur in the disease. Traditionally, the disease is thought to be related to dopamine, which is absent in the brain of people with Parkinson's. Although there is no cure yet, there are treatments to control symptoms. These mainly focus on restoring dopamine levels.

What role does serotonin play?

However, researchers at King’s College London are suggesting that changes in brain serotonin levels are paramount in Parkinson's and could serve as early warning signs. For the study, the brains of 14 people from remote villages in southern Greece and Italy were examined, all of which have rare mutations in the so-called SNCA gene, which makes it almost certain that those affected develop the disease. Half of this group had already been diagnosed with Parkinson's and the other half had no symptoms, making it ideal for studying the course of the disease.

By comparing the brain with another 65 patients with Parkinson's and 25 healthy volunteers, the researchers were able to identify early brain changes in patients aged 20 to 30 years. These were found in the serotonin system, a hormone that has many functions in the brain and affects, for example, mood, appetite, cognition, well-being and movement. The anomalies were identified long before the movement problems began and before the dopamine level changed, the study authors explain. The results suggest that early detection of changes in the serotonin system could allow new therapies to be developed to slow and ultimately prevent the progression of Parkinson's disease, the researchers add.

Were there any restrictions in the study?

The imaging method used in the study is highly specialized and its use is limited to a very small number of research centers. It cannot be used to diagnose patients or even evaluate novel treatments in large clinical trials.

More research is needed

The current research is a promising approach to detect Parkinson's disease at the earliest possible point in time. Further research is now required. However, if one succeeds in developing a tool to measure and monitor the development of Parkinson's, it could help many sufferers. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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