Until recently, Parkinson’s disease could only be detected by clinical symptoms or during autopsy, as it is often misdiagnosed or found too late in the course of the disease. However, new research from Iowa State University found that Parkinson’s can be accurately diagnosed by a simple skin test. Parkinson’s disease arises from the accumulation of misfolded proteins called alpha-synuclein in the brain, which leads to devastating neurological damage. The primary researcher in this study, Anumantha Kanthasamy, developed a chemical assay that detects the clumping of the same protein, alpha-synuclein, in the skin. Researchers utilized 25 skin samples from participants with Parkinson’s and 25 samples from participants without the disease, and it was found that 24/25 of the skin tests for the Parkinson’s group correctly identified the disease. Up until now, there has been only a 50-70% early diagnostic accuracy for people with Parkinson’s. As Dr. Charles Adler, professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic, states, “these results indicate tremendously high sensitivity and specificity, which is critical for a diagnostic test,” thus providing a hopeful glimpse into improving the prognosis of Parkinson’s patients. This novel skin testing is vital in the early detection of Parkinson’s because it can slow the development of advanced symptoms before it is too late, and it may even be the first step in finding useful treatment options for this crippling neurological disorder.
Iowa State University. "Diagnosing Parkinson's disease with skin samples could lead to earlier detection." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201021112343.htm>.