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A blood test and the use of AI could predict Parkinson's

Blood test could predict Parkinson's seven years before symptoms

A blood test and the use of artificial intelligence would serve to predict the onset of Parkinson's disease up to seven years after symptoms appear, indicates a study published today by Nature Communications.

A team from University College London and the Goettinge University Medical Center (Germany) looked for new and better Parkinson's biomarkers to develop them into a test that can be transferred to any large laboratory, EFE reported.

Using machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, they analyzed eight blood biomarkers whose concentrations are altered in Parkinson's patients and the system gave a diagnosis with 100% accuracy.

The next step was to check if the test could also predict the probability of a person developing the disease.

Researchers analyzed the blood of 72 patients with rapid eye movement behavior disorder (iRBD). 75 to 80 percent of these people with this condition will develop a synucleinopathy (a type of brain disorder caused by the abnormal buildup of a protein called alpha -synuclein in brain cells), including Parkinson's.

When the machine learning tool analyzed the blood of these patients, it identified that 79% of the iRBD patients had the same profile as someone with Parkinson's.

The patients were followed for ten years and the team correctly predicted that 16 patients would develop the disease and did so up to seven years before the appearance of any symptoms.

Patients who were predicted to develop Parkinson's are still being followed to further verify the accuracy of the test.

“By determining eight proteins in the blood, we can identify potential Parkinson's patients several years in advance. This means that drug therapies could be administered at an earlier stage, possibly slowing down the progression of the disease or even preventing it from occurring,” said Michael Barlt of the University of Goettingen.

The markers used to diagnose the disease are directly related to processes such as inflammation and the degradation of non-functional proteins, which is why they also “represent possible targets for new pharmacological treatments,” added Barlt.

The team hopes to get funding to create a simpler test in which a drop of blood can be placed on a card and sent to the laboratory to investigate whether it can predict the disease even earlier than seven years before symptoms appear in this study.

Parkinson's is the fastest growing neurodegenerative disorder in the world, currently affecting almost 10 million people worldwide.

It is caused by the death or deterioration of nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls movement by losing the ability to produce dopamine, due to the accumulation of a protein, alpha-synuclein.

Currently, patients are treated with dopamine replacement therapy when they have already developed symptoms, such as tremors, slowness of movement and gait, and memory problems.

Researchers believe that early prediction and diagnosis would be valuable in finding treatments that could slow or stop the disease by protecting dopamine-producing brain cells.

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