World’s first biomarker for efficient Parkinson’s disease diagnosis could also lead to new treatments

Scientists are hailing a major development in the study of Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. Researchers at Hiroshima University and Kobe University in Japan have generated the world-first biomarker that allows for quicker, simpler, and cost-effective diagnosis through a small amount of blood serum samples. The goal of this is to not only pave the way for easier diagnosis, but also for new treatments, especially for aging countries.

This study, inspired by Japan’s extremely fast-growing elderly population, was conducted by a research group at Hiroshima University’s Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life. As people age, their quality of life tends to decrease. Conversely, they see an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, the second most common in the world.

Since there is no cure, early detection is the next best option for developing the most beneficial treatments for halting disease progression, while putting little responsibility on the patient. This is what the researchers have focused on in their work.

They started by drawing on the well-studied notion that the Cytochrome P450 enzyme, a hemeprotein involved in lots of bodily mechanisms, metabolizes drugs in the body and changes expression upon disease onset. They built on this and utilized their previously developed “P450 inhibition assay” to detect notable changes in P450-metabolites.

To test its impact on Parkinson’s disease detection, they carried out the study on humans with this and other neurogenerative diseases, as well as Parkinson’s model rats. In these subjects, P450s were each mixed with a blood serum sample and a fluorescent substrate to generate a reaction. These serum metabolites then acted to inhibit the P450-mediated oxidation of the substrate.

By looking at the inhibition rate related to disease onset in certain P450s, the researchers were able to discern the difference between samples of healthy subjects and ones with Parkinson’s disease. The results demonstrated that the P450 inhibition assay has great odds of becoming a pivotal development for not only Parkinson’s disease, but other neurogenerative conditions as well.

Researchers would like to expand on their findings in the future by conducting clinical performance evaluations on a wider scale in order to speed up the implementation process. There is a pressing need for smoother screening and testing methods, and due to this assay being a comparatively inexpensive model, it has the potential to reach people that need it most.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Parkinson's disease biomarker
Disease onset and changes in P450 expression. (Credit: Kohei Ihara and Hiromasa Imaishi)
Parkinson's disease biomarker
Diagram explaining the P450 inhibition assay. (Credit: Kohei Ihara and Hiromasa Imaishi)
Parkinson's disease biomarker
Summarized results of analyses performed using Parkinson’s disease model rats and humans with Parkinson’s disease. (Credit: Kohei Ihara and Hiromasa Imaishi)
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Shyla Cadogan

Shyla Cadogan is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Food Science. She is on her way to becoming a Registered Dietitian, with next steps being completion of a dietetic internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Shyla has extensive research experience in food composition analysis and food resource management.

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