Researchers at Lund University, Sweden, identified a new blood marker to diagnose Parkinsonian diseases, according to a study published in the journal Nature Aging.
The marker is called DOPA decarboxylase (DCC), and the team found out that it’s elevated in patients with Parkinson’s disease (but not Alzheimer’s disease) as well as in other diseases that cause dopamine deficiency in the brain. Crucially, these changes can be detected many years before patients develop symptoms.
” We have used advanced techniques that allow us to measure thousands of proteins simultaneously in a small amount of sample. We conducted this in 428 individuals to identify biomarkers that can indicate whether a patient with motor disturbances or cognitive difficulties has damage to the dopamine system in the brain. We found that if a patient has a disorder in the dopamine system, the levels of the biomarker DDC increase, regardless of where they are in the course of the disease. An important discovery is that this biomarker can be measured in blood, where it is significantly increased, especially in Parkinson’s disease,” said Oskar Hansson, a professor of neurology at Lund University and a consultant at Skåne University Hospital.
The authors hope this analysis can be used widely to diagnose Parkinson’s early. Damage to the dopamine system in the brain can be detected with PET camera examinations, but this is a costly and complicated method only available at specialised memory clinics.
“Since the symptoms of various neurodegenerative brain diseases resemble each other, there is a significant risk of misdiagnosis and thus improper treatment. Therefore, it is crucial to find safer diagnostic tools and methods, and we are focusing on that in our research. Moreover, I believe that in the future, different brain diseases will be treated even before the symptoms become apparent, and blood markers will be essential in identifying the right individuals in a simple and cost-effective manner,” concluded Hansson.
Pereira, J.B., Kumar, A., Hall, S. et al. DOPA decarboxylase is an emerging biomarker for Parkinsonian disorders including preclinical Lewy body disease. Nat Aging 3, 1201–1209 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-023-00478-y