A reliable biomarker for the early and definitive diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is currently missing. This would ideally come from biological samples that are easy to obtain, such as blood or gut, and be consistently reproducible. Using these biomarkers in clinical trials would fast-track the development of a long awaited cure for Parkinson’s. Following recent reports in the scientific literature, we are currently investigating detection of the protein alpha-synuclein in biopsy samples of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of Discovery participants, comparing findings from individuals with Parkinson’s to those in healthy controls.
Our preliminary results have so far confirmed several issues that need to be addressed, before detection of the alpha-synuclein protein in the GI tract can find clinical application in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. In our review, we highlight problems such as the differences between studies in how the GI tract samples are collected and the methods and techniques that are used to detect the alpha-synuclein protein. We believe these differences contribute to the contrasting results reported to date. We also describe alternative alpha-synuclein detection techniques to traditional methods of detecting protein using immunohistochemistry. We are currently using these new techniques on biopsy samples from Discovery participants, which could prove to be more accurate in detecting alpha-synuclein. Finally, we stress the need for a collaborative approach, and the importance of various research groups working together in this field.
The research paper is published in the journal Movement Disorders - read the full paper here.