Detecting the existence of certain brain disorders has been a difficult task, since symptoms do not always appear at onset. In some instances, an individual can have a degenerative brain condition for 15 or 20 years before experiencing any symptoms or being diagnosed with the disease or condition.
The inability to detect the disease at onset has led to major setbacks with treatment. However, a new skin test may be able to help doctors detect certain brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease in the early stages.
According to a Time article, a new study scheduled to be presented at this year’s American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting has revealed significantly higher levels of abnormal proteins in the skin biopsies of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. In tests, an altered version of the tau protein (a protein in nerve tissue) appeared at a level seven times higher in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, while a more destructive version of another protein (alpha-synuclein, a protein abundant in the human brain) appeared in Parkinson’s patients at a level seven to eight times higher than normal.
Researchers have yet to determine the role alpha-synuclein plays in the onset and development of Parkinson’s, however the abnormal tau protein has been positively linked to the brain decline generally associated with Alzheimer’s. The lead scientist conducting the study is hopeful the skin test “opens the possibility to see abnormal proteins in the skin before central nervous system symptoms — cognitive or motor deficits — appear.”
Study Gives Hope for Early Detection of Certain Neurodegenerative Conditions
Since only a few dozen patients were involved in the initial study, additional testing and research will be required to confirm the results. The study does show promise and provide hope to those suffering from a traumatic brain injury, or approaching the age when dementia often begins to set in.
For these people, early detection of certain neurodegenerative conditions could open the door to improved levels of treatment and manageability. Further studies could also lead to major advances in drug and non-drug treatment options.
Raising Awareness About Brain Injuries and Disorders
Any head trauma, brain injury, disease or illness that causes progressive cell death in the brain can lead to a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Some people are more prone to brain disorders due to their age, family history, genes and gender. Others have an increased chance of developing a brain disorder if they have sustained a head injury, have a sleep disorder, have high blood pressure or cholesterol levels or other conditions.
A definitive way to obtain an early diagnosis could prove extremely beneficial in the treatment of brain disorders, because an early diagnosis may allow the ability to:
- Gain a more in-depth understanding of the condition.
- Have time to make necessary life decisions while still at a high level of mental capacity.
- Gain access to essential treatment options and medical care.
- Participate in clinical studies.
- Have more of an opportunity to benefit from available treatments.
- Reduce or avoid future costs.
- Prepare oneself, as well as family and friends, for what the future may hold.
It is for these reason various organizations are trying to raise awareness about brain injuries and disorders. The law firm of Marasco & Nesselbush is sponsoring a scholarship contest that allows entrants to create and submit an original 30-second public service announcement video on one of the following topics: 1) Concussions/Head Injuries: Think Fast, 2) A Day in the Life of Someone with a Brain Injury or 3) Compassion for Caregivers. First-place winners receive a $1,000 scholarship and second-place winners receive a $500 scholarship. Winners and runners-up will be chosen in each of the three states the firm serves – Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The deadline is April 15.
- Time: A Simple Skin Test May Detect Alzheimer’s
- Alzheimer’s Association: Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease: Important information for physicians