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Diagnostics Biochemistry and molecular biology, Neurology, Screening and monitoring

Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis Goes Skin Deep

We’re told that “beauty is only skin deep” – but is that true for Parkinson’s disease? It’s one of the few diseases that can only be confirmed post-mortem, relying on clinical signs and symptoms until then. Because of this, diagnostic accuracy is poor, leading to frequent misdiagnoses. 

But a new study shows potential for early diagnosis (1). Researchers at Iowa State University optimized a real-time, quaking-induced conversion assay for detecting misfolded proteins in humans – testing 25 skin samples from Parkinson’s disease patients and 25 samples from people without neurological disease. The assay correctly detected clumping of alpha-synuclein proteins in 24/25 Parkinson’s disease patients and 1/25 controls.

With clinical trials hampered by misdiagnosed patients, the team hope that improving diagnostic accuracy through skin tissue testing will lead to better treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

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  1. S Manne et al., Mov Disord, [Online ahead of print] (2020). PMID: 32960470.
About the Author
Olivia Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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